Council votes convenience store moratorium, responding to northeast-side 'food desert'
The city council voted Tuesday to impose a six-month moratorium on development of discount and convenience stores in northeast Oklahoma City, where lack of supermarkets has created a “food desert.”
The intent is to arrest the spread of stores that stock products high in fat, sugar and salt with few, if any, fresh foods. The proliferation of those stores in high-poverty areas is seen as a factor in high rates of chronic disease among residents.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice, who sponsored the measure, noted 89 percent of respondents to a survey said inner-northeast Oklah0ma City “is not a physically or mentally healthy community.”
“Imagine people who are responding in their own community saying they do not feel that it is a ... healthy environment for them to be in,” she said.
“These are things we can respond to as a city council,” she said.
There is evidence in other parts of the country that high concentrations of dollar stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, gas stations and fast-food places causes full-size grocery stores to close, said Wiley Williams, a deputy city attorney and pharmacist.
“The continued proliferation and strategy of saturating communities with multiple outlets is making it difficult, if not impossible, for new grocers or supermarkets to take root and grow,” he said.
For the longer term, city planning staff will work on creating a new zoning classification, a “healthy neighborhood overlay district,” said Amanda Carpenter, an assistant city attorney.
Tulsa created such a zoning classification last year, she said.