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Store Size Cap and Economic Impact Review – Bennington, VT

| Written by ILSR Admin | No Comments | Updated on Dec 1, 2008 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/rule/economic-impact-review/2212-2/

In April 2004, Bennington, Vermont, a town of 9,200 people in the southwest corner of the state, imposed a temporary moratorium on the construction of stores over 75,000 square feet in one commercial district and over 50,000 square feet in the rest of town.

The move was prompted by Wal-Mart’s plan to build a 150,000-square-foot supercenter in Bennington, vacating its existing 50,000-square-foot outlet.

After further evaluating the issue, in January 2005, the town enacted an ordinance that maintained the 50,000- and 75,000-square-foot size limits and required a community impact study for retail development proposals over 30,000 square feet.

The ordinance mandates that the study be conducted by an independent consultant chosen by the city and paid for by the developer.

The ordinance specifies that the study evaluate the number of jobs created by the store versus jobs lost at existing businesses, the store’s impact on the cost of public services, and any tax revenue losses resulting from a decline in the economic viability of the downtown or other established commercial areas. The study must also estimate how much revenue generated by the proposed store will be retained and re-directed back into the local economy. Locally owned stores are likely to fare better on this measure than national chains, because they generally devote a larger percentage of their revenue to local wages and buy more goods and services from nearby businesses.

Under the ordinance, stores over 30,000 square feet may be approved only if the city’s development review board finds that the project will not have “an undue adverse impact on local wages, housing costs or on the ability of the town to provide municipal services and facilities through the diminution of property values and/or tax revenues resulting from the loss of economic viability of existing commercial enterprises.”

Town officials said the ordinance was needed to ensure adequate review of the economic impacts of large-scale retail development, protect the vitality of Bennington’s existing commercial areas, and maintain competition by preventing a single retailer from dominating the local market.

However, in April 2005, Wal-Mart and an Ohio developer paid a team of people to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the ordinance. They spent heavily on print and radio ads, direct mail, and “push polls,” and ultimately won the vote, overturning the new policy.

 


Interim Bylaw — Development Moratorium

Adopted by Bennington Select Board on April 12, 2004

Inall Zoning Districts, no single retail store (including, but not limited to, a retail establishment use as defined in Bennington’s Land Use and Development Regulations) whether located in a single building, combination of buildings, single tenant space and/or combination of tenant spaces shall exceed 50,000 (fifty thousand) gross square feet of floor area in the aggregate, except that in the Planned Commercial District the limit shall be 75,000 gross square feet in the aggregate.

 


Bennington, Vermont’s Large Scale Retail Bylaw – January 24, 2005

A) Limitation of Floor Area.

1) In all Zoning Districts, except the PC and CB Districts, no single retail store (including, but not limited to, a retail establishment as defined in Article 2), whether located in a single building, combination of buildings, single tenant space and/or combination of tenant spaces, shall exceed 50,000 (fifty thousand) gross square feet of floor area in the aggregate.

2) In the PC and CB Districts, no single retail store (including, but not limited to, a retail establishment as defined in Article 2), whether located in a single building, combination of buildings, single tenant space and/or combination of tenant spaces, shall exceed 75,000 (Seventy – Five thousand) gross square feet of floor area in the aggregate.

3) This section shall apply to new retail stores and expansions of existing retail stores.

4) If standards contained in this Section conflict with any other Section of these regulations, the most restrictive shall apply.

B) Community Impact Study. In all Zoning Districts except the CB District, no new or expanded single retail store (including, but not limited to, a retail establishment as defined in Article 2) located in a single building, combination of buildings, single tenant space and/or combination of tenant spaces, that exceeds 30,000 (thirty thousand) gross square feet of floor area in the aggregate, shall be permitted, unless the Development Review Board finds that the project will not have an undue adverse impact on local wages, housing costs or on the ability of the town to provide municipal services and facilities through the diminution of property values and/or tax revenues resulting from the loss of economic viability of existing commercial enterprises. To this end, upon receipt of an application to the Development Review Board for such a retail store, the Town shall retain, at the applicant’s expense, a consultant to perform an evaluation (Community Impact Study) of the projected costs and benefits to the community resulting from the project, including:

1) projected costs arising from the demand for and required improvements to public services and infrastructure, including roads;

2) value of improvements to public services and facilities to be provided by the project;

3) projected tax revenues to be generated by the project;

4) projected impact on property values in the community (especially those located in the VC, CB, UMU and OA Districts) and the potential loss or increase in municipal tax revenues resulting from the proposed project;

5) projected net job loss or creation caused by the project and the resulting potential loss or increase in tax revenues; and

6) estimate of how much revenue generated by the project will be retained and re-directed back into the economy of Bennington.

Noapplication for a retail store shall be deemed complete until 60 days after the applicant has submitted to the Town the following: a) funds sufficient to pay the estimated fee for the Town’s consultant to perform the Community Impact Study; and b) all information deemed necessary by the Town’s consultant to complete the Community Impact Study.

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