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    Rochester City Officials Take Aim at Convenience Stores

    New ordinance puts limits on new corner stores.

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Convenience stores are facing some big changes in Rochester, N.Y., now that the city council has unanimously approved changes to the zoning and municipal codes affecting the retail outlets.

    The amendments include requiring new corner stores to sell a full line of food products including fresh vegetables and limits the store's sales to either tobacco, beer and wine or lottery, according to RochesterYNN.com. The ordinance takes effect Nov. 1.

    "The proposed changes will positively benefit the 19th Ward and other city neighborhoods by curbing the number of stores that are focused on alcohol, lottery and tobacco, as these stores are often plagued with associated nuisances and criminal activity," said Susan Morehouse, 19th Ward Community Association.

    While city officials may be in agreement, the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) called the changes "an attack" on c-stores. In a statement released this week, NYACS said "proponents of the zoning amendments seek to tar all convenience stores as an undesirable form of commerce, and to use this unfair characterization to infringe upon fundamental rights of hard-working business families who collect and remit taxes, provide employment opportunities, comply with myriad state and local regulations, and do their best to serve local residents."

    According to the association, the changes would :

    • Arbitrarily declare that convenience stores licensed by the State of New York to sell tobacco, beer, and lottery tickets are inherently deserving of tighter restrictions than other retail establishments.
    • Decree that convenience stores and other "high-impact" retail businesses have "a history of or a likelihood of creating negative impacts" on surrounding neighborhoods "such as noise, traffic, parking, loitering, and increased need for police services."
    • Proclaim that retail businesses other than [convenience] stores "have so few negative impacts that they may be located in close proximity to residential uses as they will offer products and services to residents."
    • Unjustifiably require "proof of the proper filing of sales taxes" as a condition of obtaining a city business permit.

    In addition, the city will ask store owners to sign a "Good Neighbor Agreement" pledging to clean "all areas within 100 feet of (his/her) property lines," and to display "No Trespassing" signs outside, NYACS said.

    "We acknowledge the legitimate concerns of law enforcement and community leaders about the frequency and severity of incidents in and around certain retail shops in the city. And we respect the city's desire to regulate commerce and maintain order," the association said. "But in our view, the overzealous restrictions set forth in these proposed amendments would unfairly constrain convenience store owners who are not part of the problem."

     

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