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Big Box Wins and Losses on Election Day

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Nov 1, 2003 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

Voters in Lakeway, Texas, about 20 miles west of Austin, overwhelmingly rejected a resolution to allow the construction of a 48-acre shopping center anchored by a 184,00-square-foot Wal-Mart store. The election drew the largest turnout in Lakeway history with residents voting 1,880 to 749 to block the development by retaining the town’s current 100,000-square-foot size limit on retail stores.

The city council had earlier voted to lift the size cap and grant preliminary approval to the project. Although the ballot resolution is non-binding, the grassroots citizens group Lakeway First believes the strong showing at the polls will convince the city council to withhold final approval for the development and restore the size limit at its next meeting.

Meanwhile, by a margin of just 34 votes, residents of Cotati, a small town in northern California, endorsed a referendum that will exempt a 52-acre site from a city law prohibiting stores over 43,000 square feet. The vote, 1,047 to 1,013, opens the way for a 165,000-square-foot Lowe’s superstore. The developers spent $180,000 on the campaign, while citizens opposed to lifting the cap, known as Cotati Residents Against Measure B, spent $30,000.

Residents Against Measure B are considering a legal challenge against the city. They contend the referendum’s language was confusing, and that city officials misled residents by saying the store would produce $1 million annually in new tax revenue. The city has never provided documentation supporting this figure. For Lowe’s to generate that much in sales tax revenue, it would have to double its national average of $300 in sales per square foot. Nor did the $1 million figure account for public costs associated with the development, such as road maintenance, or lost revenue from existing businesses that will lose sales when Lowe’s opens.


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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

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