More Cities Ban Large-Scale Retail

Date: 1 Aug 2000 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In August, the city of Rockville, Maryland adopted an ordinance barring stores over 65,000 square feet and requiring those that exceed 25,000 square feet to meet design guidelines. The action puts an end to a proposed 128,000 square foot Costco warehouse store. (Wal-Mart stores range from about 80,000 to 250,000 square feet. A typical Borders Books is about 35,000 square feet.)

Rockville’s law makes permanent a moratorium on large stores imposed last October to give the city time to study the issue. In public forums, residents voiced concerns that large-scale retail development would undermine the city’s quality of life by increasing traffic, eroding Rockville’s character, and bringing in businesses that have little commitment to the community.

Towns across Maryland are struggling over the issue of big chains. The city of Easton capped new retail stores at 65,000 square feet in March. Gaithersburg imposed a 80,000 square foot limit on single-story structures (allowing up to 160,000 square feet on two stories). Chestertown has barred stores over 60,000 square feet. Efforts to keep giant stores out are underway in several other towns.

In May, the city of Boise, Idaho altered its zoning ordinance to prohibit stores that exceed 60,000 square feet and shopping centers that exceed 70,000 square feet from locating in neighborhood business districts. The city hopes to encourage small, neighborhood-oriented businesses that are easily accessible by foot or bicycle.

Sprawl-Busters NewsFlash reported that several New England towns adopted size limits in March. By a 2-to-1 vote, residents of Boxborough, Massachusetts capped new retail at 25,000 square feet. Residents of Walpole, New Hampshire voted 3-to-1 to enact a 40,000 square foot limit.

In San Francisco, a measure to limit new businesses in the Castro neighborhood to 4,000 square feet became law on August 18. Sponsored by Supervisor Leno, the ordinance was prompted by Pottery Barn’s attempt to open a store in the area. A similar ordinance covering the Northbeach neighborhood was enacted last year.

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Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.