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Madison Limits Footprint of Big-Box Stores

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 4, 2005 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

By an 18-1 vote, the City Council in Madison, Wisconsin, endorsed a measure that would limit retail stores to a footprint of no more than 100,000 square feet. Stores may be larger if they are multi-story or have structured or underground parking.

A 100,000-square-foot store covers about the same land area as two football fields and typically requires at least twice as much land for the parking lot. (See our How Big is Too Big?.)

Council President Brenda Konkel and Alderperson Austin King offered several amendments aimed at strengthening the ordinance.

King proposed that the allowable footprint be reduced to 80,000 square feet and that big-box retailers over 40,000 square feet be required to pay a living wage of $9.74 an hour. Konkel moved that proposals for stores over 40,000 square feet be required to undergo an economic impact review. None of these amendments passed.

The ordinance does impose design standards on stores over 40,000 square feet, including requirements in terms of building materials, entrances, set backs, and so forth.

“It’s a start,” said Marsha Rummel, finance manager for Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative. Rummel, a vocal supporter of the city’s local businesses, has been pushing for stronger standards.

Despite strong support from many small business owners, the ordinance’s co-sponsor Ken Golden told The Capital Times that he feared the measure would be “perceived as some kind of left-wing conspiracy to thwart business,” and repeatedly delayed its progress—it was originally proposed two years ago?in order to give developers more opportunity for input.

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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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