Editorial: Preparing for Lowe’s and/or Home Depot
Much has been written lately about the possible pending arrival of the Lowe’s and Home Depot home improvement stores in Silverthorne, with some saying it will bring positive change and others decrying negative impacts to community and business.
Whether you are for or against, it’s important to understand the two parcels in question are zoned commercial and are privately owned, and because of what is known as “right by use,” either chain store may choose to locate so long as existing law and regulation is followed. Yes, some political pressure can be brought to bear on decision-makers in Silverthorne, but the reality is what the members of the Silverthorne town council can and cannot do in this instance is clearly limited by law.
It’s possible but unlikely that both Lowe’s and Home Depot will choose to square off in this relatively small market. Since first announced several years ago, Home Depot has been moving at a glacial pace and appears no closer to breaking ground than it did in 2007. By comparison, Lowe’s has moved very quickly in a relatively short period of time. But whether it’s one or both that open their doors, there are clear considerations for the different interest groups involved in the debate:
• The town of Silverthorne needs to be extra vigilant about ensuring that “big boxes” build attractive, sustainable (green) stores that fit with the town’s style and ambience. They need to ensure that the already overtaxed Wildernest Road and Highway 6 intersection doesn’t devolve into a nightmare and, in the case of the Home Depot parcel, make sure the Gold Medal Blue River isn’t subject to additional pollutants – especially runoff from the parking lot. Because Silverthorne is no stranger to big development, we believe the town staff and council are well positioned to shepherd this process, but citizens need to be engaged as well.
• Citizens critical of the big boxes can and should take it upon themselves to attend the planning and council meetings where some of the details will be ironed out over the coming months. Simply saying “make it go away” is not, at this point, a reasonable approach. Being educated about what kind of concessions and mitigations are doable and promoting them is a more effective way to get a store all can live with.
• Those businesses likely to be most affected by the deep discounting tactics these stores offer should already be looking closely at their business plans and how they will need to be adjusted to ensure long-term survival. Complaining about big box stores isn’t going to keep them out; but entrepreneurial creativity and a focus on customer service can demonstrate why local businesses are often the better option.
• Groups like the Summit Independent Business Alliance, the Summit County Chamber and the Small Business Development Center can and should provide crucial leadership to these businesses – now is the time for these groups to step up and justify their existence by supporting the small, locally owned supplier with strategies for survival. There are examples from other communities of how the little guys survived (and in some instances thrived) when the big box came to town. Understanding what worked elsewhere could provide a blueprint of ideas of what can be followed here.
Regardless to which group you may belong or to which you offer allegience, waiting until Lowe’s or Home Depot opens their doors and then reacting may well prove too little too late. Being proactive is a better strategy.
Our hope is that, in the end, if the free market brings the low-price chain stores to the area, then they serve basic needs as a complement to the smaller stores that have found workable niches and specializations the big guys can’t match.
-The Summit Daily Editorial Board consists of Jim Morgan, Alex Miller, Ryan Wondercheck, Matt Sandberg, Jim Ernst and Miles Porter.
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