Liddick: Lawsuit over Lowe’s as frivolous as they come
September 30, 2010
I’ll vote to give this year’s Al Gore Honorary Sore Loser Award to the four parties filing a lawsuit against the Town of Silverthorne for approving the Lowe’s project at the corner of Adams Avenue and Royal Buffalo Drive. And yes, I meant “for approving.” Although the suit alleges mischaracterization of the retailer by the town at the beginning of the approval process, I’m willing to bet these folks wouldn’t have been anywhere in sight if the project had been rejected. Procedural error, my left foot …
If one looked up “nuisance lawsuit” in the dictionary, there might be a picture of this case. It is designed to temporarily halt progress on the Lowe’s project and to cost the residents of Silverthorne several thousands of dollars in court costs. It is powered by pique, and is the legal equivalent of holding one’s breath in a tantrum.
While we’re at it, it’s not about “preserving the character of our small mountain town,” either. A Lowe’s and/or Home Depot will not change the character of the gas stations at the corner of US 6 and Wildernest Road. It won’t change the impression of Silverthorne people get from the cluster of fast-food joints below the Summit Place Shopping Center – or from patronizing the outlet stores, or driving past Target. It might even complement these by drawing additional patrons.
Nor is it about spoiling views, or any other such nonsense. For those with an interest in this topic who have not already done so, I would suggest a trip to the proposed site. Have a good look at the empty and decaying auto dealership there, and decide for yourself if a new building, designed and built to match county and city specifications, would be worse than the ramshackle, weed-strewn eyesore now occupying the corner.
While you’re at it, go past the fishermen on the Blue and under the freeway on the extension of Adams Avenue. The proposed Home Depot site is ahead on the left. Stop, turn to your right and have a good look. The vision you see before you is a storage and repair yard for heavy equipment, a necessary component of modern life. Very picturesque, is it not? In discussing the impact of Lowe’s or Home Depot on the appearance of our “little mountain town,” let’s not forget what our town is, and what it looks like. All of it.
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No, last Thursday’s filing is not about procedure. Nor is it about damaging someone’s bucolic view of the top of an empty industrial building. Nor about truck turning radii, nor traffic patterns nor fire safety nor any other red herring. It’s about keeping real competition out of a substantial sector of Summit County’s economy.
Look, I understand: Competition is hard work. It’s far easier when one is the only game in town, able to balance the price one charges for X, Y or Z against the cost and inconvenience of obtaining a lower price by driving 40 miles. To some degree one has a captive market, and may overcharge and underserve without penalty. Vigorous competition changes that.
I used to live in another resort area, where the two small supermarkets were locally owned. When a regional chain announced plans to enter the area, the owner moved heaven and earth to prevent it, packing local council planning meetings with family members, cousins, aunts, uncles, employees – everyone he could muster. He failed despite these measures; an overwhelming majority of locals were fed up with his price-gouging. The regional retailer moved in. Did the original grocer go out of business? No. But he did have to change his business plan. A loaf of bread couldn’t sell for $2 anymore, and ground beef didn’t fetch $3 a pound.
The owner changed his inventory to complement the competition; he stressed high quality, service and convenience. Twenty years later, his larger store is still in business, doing quite well. And locals have far more choice, at a much greater range in price, than they did before the chain store arrived.
So yes, it is possible for everyone to win. But for that to happen, the few have got to stop fighting change the way my cat fights going to the vet. Instead, Lowe’s should be welcomed. Good businesses will adapt and thrive, customers will benefit and in the end most of us will wonder what the fuss was about.
Or, Summit County’s paltry anti-Lowe’s crew could throw themselves to the floor and hold their collective breath until they’re blue. It would be more entertaining, and less costly to the residents of Silverthorne – in both short and long run.