Big box in Frisco would present challenges to entire county
I would like to share some information from the workshop that I recently attended in Grand Junction, sponsored by the Colorado Dept. of Local Affairs (DOLA) on “Mitigating the Impact of the Big Box.” The topic overall was, “How does a community identify and address the many issues surrounding the acceptance and placement of a big box store in their neighborhood/community?”The presenters and speakers were state and county planners, a city development director, the state demographer, a community development planner, a councilman from a local city, a project manager for a consulting firm and a county commissioner.I learned that doing one’s homework is most imperative when a town considers allowing a Big Box into their community. The following are questions or issues that must be addressed prior to any consideration of a new store.Has the town:- collected census information on numbers for growth, population, income, traffic, housing and additional services required?- evaluated the relationship of (low-paying) jobs, people, community services and public finance?- completed and presented an economic impact study to the community and existing business?- quantified the need for planning related to the growth and influx of customers?- zoning and architectural review standards already in place?- considered if the big box decides to move up the street or to another county leaving a big vacant ugly box store? Colorado has four such buildings now, while Texas has the most with 28.The economic impact study and statement is the most important. As part of our information package, Constance Beaumont, director for state and local policy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Leslie Tucker, local policy analyst for the Trust, made these comments in an article “Big Box Sprawl” in the 2002 issue of Municipal Lawyer:”In the view of many, big-box stores impose hidden costs that don’t appear on the price tags of the products they sell: traffic congestion; loss of trees, open space and farmland; displaced small businesses; substitution of jobs that support families with low-paying jobs that don’t; air and water pollution; dying downtowns with vacant buildings; abandoned shopping centers; a degraded sense of community; and sprawl. The list of problems linked to big-box stores is long.”Later in the article, they state: “Whether one loves or hates big-box stores, it is indisputable that their effects are long-term and significant. … Local public officials owe it to their constituents to consider these effects – and to become familiar with tools available for mitigating them – before approving big-box stores. Such tools include impact assessments, design standards, planning moratoria, retail size limits, intergovernmental agreements and the withdrawal of subsidies for retail sprawl.”They present a situation that occurred in Lake Placid, N.Y., when a Wal-Mart proposed to build an 80,000 square-foot store surrounded by nine acres of asphalt in a scenic preservation district on the edge of this small resort town. Local residents recoiled because zoning laws called for “any undue adverse impact on the natural, physical, social, and economic resources of the Village/Town (to) be avoided.” In this case, the town’s planning board rejected the proposed superstore because of its negative economic impacts threatened to harm Lake Placid’s community character. The economic impact study conducted for the proposed Wal-Mart said that it could take up to 14 years to refill retail space likely to become chronically vacant due to the superstore’s construction. … such chronic vacancies would result in fewer tourists … resulting in less sales overall … resulting in a downward spiral in the psychological, visual and economic character and condition of the downtown.”An economic impact assessment in Bozeman, Mont., resulted in the town asking the big-box retailer to pay for shuttle services to the downtown, and to contribute to a promotional campaign benefitting existing stores as well as the superstore, according to the article.In summation, a town’s government and citizens must have courage to face these issues head-on with the big-box store management, and be prepared to disregard any threats by them to move the store, and to not be moved by fears concerning loss of revenue. The town managers must do their due diligence regarding the establishment of a big box in their town and how it will really affect their town’s identity. They must get their eyes off the dollar signs. There are other ways to increase revenue as needed. The decision to allow this type of growth is irrevocable and brings new and greater challenges to the town. Their decision to allow a big-box store in Frisco will affect the entire county, and will have an economic impact on other towns and businesses, as well as bringing more housing and family issues to all of Summit County with their part-time, low-paying, no-benefit wages.Perhaps the Summit County Commissioners should be commencing such a study as well.
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