RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After a string of violent crimes at a Richmond convenience store, City leaders are introducing legislation aimed at restricting where convenience stores can be built.
At a council meeting Monday night, Councilwoman Ellen Robertson will introduce an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance relating to convenience stores. It would exclude convenience stores from the permitted use of grocery stores, potentially cracking down on slot machine use and alcohol sales.
The proposal would remove the ability for convenience stores to be built “by right” — that is, without seeking a special permit — in some commercial and residential zones. Instead, the city would designate specific “overlay districts” for that use, outside of which store owners would need to seek special permission from the planning commission to open one.
Councilwoman Robertson was unavailable for an interview Monday; however, during an emergency meeting in October, she said slot machines and alcohol sales could be two factors contributing to the violence.
“We want change. We’re going to cross the street and walk through the store and make note of what you see.”
Robertson was referring to the inside of the Carolina Express Convenience Store, which has been the scene of two major shootings in 2022.
On Oct. 27, officers arrived at the Carolina Express just before 8:30 p.m. and found three men with gunshot wounds in the store’s parking lot. According to police, two of the victims had life-threatening injuries, while the third victim’s injuries were non-life-threatening. All three were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
In August, four people were shot at the store, including a minor.
Under Virginia law, the store likely qualifies as a “criminal blight,” a designation that would allow the mayor to enforce improvements to the property designed to rectify the situation. Under state law, a criminal blight can be declared when the building “endangers public health or safety” because of “the regular presence on the property of persons in possession of controlled substances and the discharge of a firearm under certain conditions.”
8News spoke to JJ Minor, the president of the Richmond NAACP, who agreed changes need to be made.
“Most convenience stores are doing what is right, but there are some who just won’t comply and they’re doing wrong by the neighborhood,” Minor said. “There’s a lot of congregating and illegal drugs being sold at these convenience stores. Wherever there is a lot of congregating, you can see things before it happens.”
Virginia ABC has revoked the alcohol license for the Carolina Express convenience store in Richmond. However, it is unclear how long that will last.
Minor believes the proposed resolution could be one part of a long-term solution.
“Will it solve everything? No. But it is a start, and we definitely need to put some prevention measures in place to address crime at stores,” he said.
City Council will discuss the resolution at Monday night’s meeting.