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City: Family Dollar Is Entitled To New Store

According to the City of Tampa's Zoning laws, Family Dollar is entitled to open its new Florida Avenue location without a public hearing.


A growing movement has some members of the Seminole Heights community looking for ways to fight the addition of a new Family Dollar store on Florida Avenue. The issue of the proposed store has stirred up emotion among some residents posting on Facebook, Seminole Heights Patch and other online websites. 

For the City of Tampa, the addition of Family Dollar is a fairly standard procedure. The location at 5100 North Florida Ave. is currently zoned as a Commercial Intensive property, making retail sales within the limits for which the property is zoned.

Some communities have been able to fight Family Dollar's opening in their area during "change of use" hearings. In the case of Seminole Heights, however, such a hearing isn't required.

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"Re-zoning is not required," director of growth management for the City of Tampa Tom Snelling said. "Change of use just means that they are subject to different site plan requirements. That's an evaluation that is done in house to determine if there are issues with things like parking. The company is currently going through that, but that doesn't require or need a public hearing."

That means that those hoping to express their opinions about Family Dollar before Tampa City Council won't likely have that chance.

"It has the correct zoning and is meeting the city codes for retail use," Snelling said. "There is no zoning requirement that specifies a Family Dollar versus a t-shirt boutique. It's retail sales. People can write a letter to council asking them to look at the zoning code and see if there is a way to address different retail types. City Council may ask us to then look at the code and come back with a report," Snelling said.

Hunt Real Estate, the company currently managing the property, declined to comment on the issue surrounding the new Family Dollar. Calls to Family Dollar representative Dean Koutroumanis also went unanswered and messages were not returned.

The building sits on the opposite side of Florida Avenue from the historic district meaning no architectural guidelines are set. As for whether or not there is a loophole for residents to exploit right now, Snelling doesn't see it.

"Family Dollar is doing everything they are supposed to," Snelling said. "It's unfortunate people don't like that store but from a legal perspective the city has to review the parking, landscaping, fire sprinklers, safety codes and electrical and plumbing permits. If they were in a historic district, it would only determine the architectural aspect of the building, but it would have no effect on how it could be used."

Steve Quillian August 07, 2012 at 10:58 AM
I'm going in and buying a roll of paper towels the day they open.
Shawn Hicks August 07, 2012 at 01:01 PM
One of the issues with this store is that they are using loopholes to avoid upgrading the building to current code requirements. If they do a certain amount of upgrades, that requirement kicks in. In order to open, they'll have to make those upgrades. However, they are requesting permits in batches rather than all at once in order to avoid triggering the requirements. I'd like the city to total up all the permits and apply that total rather than pretend these small batches are not related in order to give Family Dollar a break. If they are coming into the area, they should be doing so as a good neighbor wanting to improve the commercial district.
Carlos Mejias August 07, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I don't understand this country; 1)The economy is SUPER BAD 2)The store is bringing JOBS 3)IS bringing saving to peoples pockets This is an issue about ECONOMY. We are in a bad economic situation and this store in bringing all of this to the area. U not even have to turn on your car to shop for basic items that you need at your house (saving $ GAS), They sell items cheaper than Supermarkets (more $ saved right there) Create JOBS very important today (with the unemployed % so high), people 3 facts of a positive way Family Dollar is convenient to this area. Now you tell me one negative thing of this facts. Whats wrong with YOU people complaining about things that we really need today with this ECONOMY SO BAD. I'M SURE THAT IF THEY open a Bar that brings drunk, car accidents, CRIME, DUI's and much more negative things to this area everyone is HAPPY WITH THAT.
Chris Taylor August 07, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Shawn, We're looking to ask the city about this type of thing today. I'll be sure and keep you posted.
Mengleberries August 07, 2012 at 05:12 PM
An Ace hardware, organic market, or gym would be a better fit. It's too bad that people like ^^ dont see the long term ramifications, and bow down to the cheaper is better mantra. The same lack of conviction has led to the loss of quality farming, local enterprise, and a dependency on big corporation and government. You can keep your cheap Chinese goods, nutrient deficient foods, and welfare state.
phil August 07, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Just as I thought. The zoning is correct and it's a done deal.
Rebecca August 07, 2012 at 08:04 PM
It is clear the city council has no use for, or care about, Seminole Heights. This would never happen in a South Tampa, Carrollwood or New Tampa neighborhood.
Chris Taylor August 07, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Hi Rebecca, I just saw your comment and decided to look. There is a Family Dollar on Gandy Blvd in Tampa. There is also one on Gunn Highway in Carrollwood. There is also one on Bearss Ave in New Tampa.
Glenn Sheffield August 07, 2012 at 11:01 PM
1) Yes, the economy is SUPER BAD, partly because of corporate chain retailers like Family Dollar siphoning money out of our local communities and sending it to China, where all their crap goods are manufactured. 2) Yes, the store is bringing 8-10 JOBS which pay minimum wage. This will not make up for the loss of good jobs from the four local independent businesses which are being evicted from that location. 3) You have obviously never bought a gallon of milk from a Family Dollar.
jaime August 07, 2012 at 11:19 PM
@chris Taylor they only have one in each area? because that is acceptable but were up to 6 in a mile or so radius.
Tim August 08, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Carlos: Please review the following facts before having a further opinion: #1 Family Dollar is going to cost the area jobs immediately. The current building at 5100 N Florida Ave has been leased by 4 businesses. They have been evicted. Those jobs were local, independent businesses that had made a home in the Seminole Heights. We have lost those jobs & businesses. In their place wil be 8-10 minimum wage jobs. #2 This block is a city - wide destination already. Family Dollar is NOT bringing "More Business" to the block. If you haven't visited this area, then you may not realize that it is in the midst of an independent business revival. #3 Family Dollar has a bad reputation, not only for their workers, but also for their prices. Family Dollar has been found guilty of violating federal overtime laws, settling for over $35 million dollars for their illegal practices (Source - USA TODAY). #5 All Family Dollar's Net Profts Are Taken Out of the Community. All profits are taken to the company's headquarters in North Carolina. The net impact of this business being here to the benefit of the community on a local level is in the negative. #6 THERE ARE ALREADY 5 FAMILY DOLLAR STORES WITHIN 2.4 MILES OF THE LOCATION. Talk about market saturation! We also have a CVS, a Sav-A-Lot Grocery, a Publix and some produce stands within 1.2 Miles of the proposed location.
Tim August 08, 2012 at 12:55 AM
It's not a done deal till the paperwork gets signed and the deal is done. We can convince FD that it is a bad business move to move into this location. This has already been featured on FOX news, the Tampa Times and more. It's about to be a PR disaster for them.
phil August 08, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I'm sure FD has done it's research and wants to be here. I bet the store on Neb Ave. is one of their top stores. So no you won't convince them they know the demographics and they want the $$$$. I'm not for them but I am a realist.
Shawn Hicks August 08, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Phil, What would you recommend we do to get Family Dollar to be a good neighbor then? They are currently trying to avoid doing many upgrades to the exterior of the building. If they do more than 50% of the appraised value, they have to comply with current City Code. So their solution appears to be to not upgrade and avoid having to meet code. To me, this says they aren't interested in improving the area at all and it ties into their reputation for having run-down and dirty stores. The existing building was a grocery store in the early 50s. Technically, that building is "historic" in the age sense. They could restore the building to its 1950s appearance (just like Publix did), plant some trees in the parking lot, and keep their location clean. I would consider that a good corporate neighbor. Given their dance around the code, though, I'm not expecting them to even meet the minimum level that a business might be expected to meet in better economic times. For the record--I think we as a neighborhood should not only be asking Family Dollar to keep their property maintained, but also ask the existing businesses to do the same. The current state of the property has many people confused--they think it was vacant and boarded up. Consider that a moment. We expect Family Dollar to meet a higher standard than the existing business at the same location.
Whine and Moan August 08, 2012 at 02:39 PM
http://www.leonlevinefoundation.org/ here is Family Dollar charitable org. looks like a nice guy
Whine and Moan August 08, 2012 at 02:45 PM
shawn hicks has a good point. i thought the bldg was vacant. plenty of crappy looking bldgs on florida ave. abrihem watch repair looks like a roach motel
Doug Carter August 08, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Mr. Moan, thanks for that Levine Foundation link.
Sue August 08, 2012 at 06:14 PM
From reading the negative comments above sounds to me that what would be a better fight would be to get that side of Florida ave and surrounding area designated as a historic district so that future Big box stores will blend in with the neighborhood. Does anyone think all the car lots with chain link fences help our neighborhood on Florida Ave?- or think that these car lots employ more people than a Dollar store?-a busy thriving business is better than a boarded up vacant business even if it is a box store. Box stores will attract smaller stores nearby. Just like a Publix anchors a shopping mall.
Mike Bucher August 10, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Family Dollar is not my preference for this location, but the arguments of the Seminole Heights crowd are splintered and without merit. One segment is against Family Dollar for being a national retailer, one segment is against them for attracting a less than desirable customer base, while another segment is upset about their building ruining the aestheitcs of the neighborhood. I mean no offense, but this is just a classic example of a NIMBY attitude. Unless I am missing something, Family Dollar, as well as the developer, has been completely in line with all City of Tampa zoning and land use requirements. What if we were talking about Trader Joe's? What if we were talking about a Starbucks? World of Beer? At the end of the day, a Family Dollar is a conforming use and has as much a right to be there as any local company. If the residents of Seminole Heights really wish to do shape or control the development of Florida Avenue, then they should educate themselves on the development process, and work with the city in a proactive manner. Create a historic district, or develop an architectural requirement for the area, or change the zoning. Signing an online petition does nothing. My gut tells me that most people on these message boards and sigers of the petition are not as passionate about their neighborhood as they think. The reason this wouldn't happen in Beach Park is because those neighborhoods have procedures and rules in place to block this sort of thing.

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