Roeland Park ordinance limits thrift, small discount stores; move was worked out in closed session

The Dollar Tree store in Roeland Park recently closed to move to Mission.
The Dollar Tree store in Roeland Park recently closed to move to Mission.

Roeland Park will limit the operation of thrift stores and so-called “small-box discount retailers” within the city by requiring a 5,000-foot separation from any similar retailer.

The city council abruptly passed the ordinance requiring the separation and a permit in a specially called council meeting Monday with only a few minutes of discussion. The item had not appeared on a public agenda previously, but apparently was worked out by the council behind closed doors in a recent executive session. The city cited attorney-client privilege to justify the closed session. No explanation or background of the proposal was given during Monday’s council meeting.

Councilor Becky Fast was the only member to vote against the ordinance and the only councilor to raise substantial questions during the brief discussion. Ironically, the Roeland Park City Council is noted for its extensive debates on a variety of topics. By contrast, a recent ordinance regulating short-term rentals such as Airbnb consumed hours of public discussion over several meetings.

The ordinance was designed to address “dollar-type” stores, according toe City Administrator Keith Moody. “We’re not saying we don’t want them, we just don’t want a concentration,” Moody said. Fast had asked questions about which businesses would be affected by the definitions.

“The Governing Body hereby finds that small-box discount retailers and thrift stores have a deleterious impact on neighboring properties by lowering property values and adversely affecting rental rates of nearby commercial properties,” the ordinance states. “The term “small-box discount retailer” shall refer to a retail business that offers a wide range of inexpensive household goods out of a small storefront, with a building footprint of usually less than 15,000 square feet. The term “thrift store” shall refer to a retail business selling second-hand clothes and other household goods, with the majority of the merchandise priced at less than five dollars per item.”

The recent departure of Dollar Tree from the shops near Walmart along Roe Avenue apparently triggered the move. The 5,000-foot separation requirement is measured not only from a store in Roeland Park, but would also be measured from a store in a neighboring city. For example, the existing discount and thrift stores along 47th Street in Kansas City, Kan., would effectively block such a store from opening on the Roeland Park side of the street.

Roeland Park already requires a separation of payday loan stores. It also charges a $1,000 permit fee for payday loan operations. In a separate resolution Monday, the council approved a $100 annual permit fee for the thrift and discount stores.