The City of Manvel has restricted the ability of dollar stores to open, making it the third locality to implement such a policy in Texas.
New dollar stores now cannot be constructed within two miles not only of an existing one, but of a convenience store or gas station as well.
Furthermore, at least 10 percent of the store’s gross floor area must consist of fresh produce, meat, or dairy products — and its hours of operation will be limited to 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Fort Worth was the second city in Texas to pass such a measure, doing so back in January, and Mesquite also approved the policy in 2018.
Proponents of such policies say dollar stores create “food deserts,” defined as an area with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, specifically lacking supermarkets.
This, they say, leads to a glut of discount stores in particularly poor neighborhoods and a saturation of malnutrition amongst residents therein. Advocates also allege that discount stores dissuade economic development in the community, scaring off not only grocery stores but other businesses.
Some advocates tie this issue in with expanded public transit as in one big effort to improve malnutrition in impoverished areas.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study which states “Areas with higher levels of poverty are more likely to be food deserts,” but no statistically significant correlation was found between food desert status and public transportation, or a lack thereof.
The new ordinance will all but prohibit the construction of new discount stores within city limits due to the two mile radius limitation.
The theory that preventing the construction of discount stores, or even the fresh food requirement, is somewhat dubious, according to a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. The paper found that within former food deserts in which supermarkets have opened, consumers did not choose markedly more healthy options — further calling the supermarket’s effect on consumption “negligible.”
In a 2011 New York Times article, an executive with the consumer data analytics company Nielsen said “affluent households” are driving the expansion of dollar stores.
Nonetheless, local officials are still concerned with the potential deterrence of economic development.
City Councilman Dan Davis, the lone “no” vote on the measure, said of its passage, “I want to see the power in the hands of the people and the businesses, not in codified wording drafted by city hall. I want to see our city flourish and my neighbors be prosperous through the freedom of choice and responsibility.”
Local officials wish to achieve that projection and some believe this dollar store restriction will facilitate that growth.
Manvel Mayor Debra Davison did not return a request for comment.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.