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Demanding Diversity: Formula Business Rules Spread

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Aug 1, 2000 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

Size restrictions keep the large stores out, but many places are grappling with the proliferation of smaller chains, like Starbucks and Blockbuster. These cookie-cutter operations often displace unique homegrown businesses and have made many cities and towns virtually indistinguishable.

A handful of communities have responded to this problem by adopting ordinances that essentially outlaw uniformity. These rules either ban altogether or limit the number of “formula” businesses that are allowed. Formula businesses are those which adopt standardized services, methods of operation, and other features virtually identical to businesses located in other communities.

Port Jefferson, New York recently enacted an ordinance barring formula fast food restaurants from the village’s historic commercial and waterfront districts. The measure was proposed by the Port Jefferson Civic Association.

Coronado, a city of 20,000 in southern California, is currently reviewing ways to strengthen or expand its formula business ordinance. The existing law allows no more than ten formula fast food restaurants.

The city of Boulder is considering an ordinance that would limit all types of formula businesses, including both restaurants and retail stores. The Boulder Independent Business Alliance proposed the measure.

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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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