Economic Impact Review – Brattleboro, VT

In October 2006, the select board of Brattleboro, Vermont, approved the following ordinance.  It requires all proposals for retail stores in excess of 65,000 square feet to undergo an economic and community impact analysis.

Theanalysis is to be conducted by a consultant chosen from a list of qualified consultants approved by the Brattleboro Development Review Board.

The analysis must estimate the proposed big-box store’s net impact on employment, the cost of providing public services to the store, the impact on surrounding property values, the extent to which the store’s sales will come at the expense of existing retailers, and how much of its revenue will be redirected back into the local economy.

Localofficials may approve the big box store only if they conclude that it” shall not adversely affect the Town’s financial health and its ability to serve its residents as evidenced by the projected impact on the local economy.”

The ordinance was drafted by the Brattleboro Planning Commission’s Store Size Caps subcommittee, which was formed in 2004 in response to growing citizen concern about big-box stores.  The subcommittee issued its findings and recommendations in a report released in March 2006.


Amendments to the Brattleboro Zoning Ordinance – Regarding Large-scale Retail Uses

The following Section is proposed to be added to the Brattleboro Zoning Ordinance:

2337. A No single Retail Store, Factory Retail Store, or Supermarket shall have a Floor Area greater than 65,000 square feet, unless it receives:

1. Site Plan Approval;

2. Conditional Use Approval, including review under:

a.     The standards contained in Section 1413 of the Zoning Ordinance; and

b.     The following “other standards and factors” authorized by 24 VSA 4414 (3) (B) (v):

1)    The Retail Store, Factory Retail Store, or Supermarket (“the project”) shall be located in a Commercial, Commercial Industrial, or Industrial zoning district in the “Putney Road Area,” that is, the project must be located north of the West River, south of the Dummerston/ Brattleboro town line, east of I-91, and west of the Connecticut River.

2)    The project shall be constructed in a manner that encourages and facilitates the use of public transportation as well as pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

3)    Working with a consultant selected by the applicant from a list of consultants approved by the DRB, the applicant shall provide the following detailed analyses, in addition to the information required under 10 V.S.A. § 6086(a)(9)(A):

a)     Impact on employment in the greater Brattleboro area, including number of jobs gained and/or lost, and effect on salaries and benefits;

b)    Estimated costs of public and social services attributable to the project;

c)     Impact on commercial and residential property values in the Town, with an emphasis on the immediate area around the project;

d)    Extent to which the project will contribute to or draw business from existing businesses in the Greater Brattleboro area.

e)     Estimates of how much revenue generated by the project will be retained and redirected into the economy of the community and region.

The DRB may approve the project if it finds that the project shall not adversely affect the Town’s financial health and its ability to serve its residents as evidenced by the projected impact on the local economy.

4)    The project shall comport with the nature and character of the Town in the view of the DRB and shall also be consistent with the vision for growth as set forth in the Town Plan, including the Putney Road Master Plan.

5)    Aesthetic Characteristics. The project shall comply with the following aesthetic characteristics:

a)     Facades and Exterior Walls, Including Side and Back Walls. The building shall be designed in order to reduce the appearance of massive scale or a uniform and impersonal appearance and to provide visual interest. Long building walls shall be broken up with projections or recessions.

b)    Detail Features. The design shall provide architectural features that contribute to visual interest at the pedestrian scale and reduce the massive scale effect by breaking up the building wall, front, side, or rear, with color, texture change, and repeating wall offsets, reveals, or projecting ribs.

c)     Roofs. The roof design shall provide variations in roof lines and heights to add interest to, and reduce the massive scale of, large buildings. Parapet walls shall be architecturally treated to avoid a plain or monotonous style.

d)    Materials and Colors. The buildings shall have exterior building materials and colors which are aesthetically pleasing and compatible with the overall development plan. Construction material shall provide color, texture and scale. Predominant exterior building materials shall not include smooth-faced concrete block or prefabricated steel panel.

e)     Entryways.  Entryways shall be designed to orient customers and add aesthetically pleasing character to buildings by providing inviting customer entrances that are protected from the weather. Each entrance shall be a clearly defined, highly visible customer entrance featuring no less than three of the following: canopies or porticos; overhangs; recesses/ projections; arcades; raised corniced parapets over the door; peaked roof forms, arches, outdoor patios; display windows; architectural details such as tile work and moldings which are integrated into the building structure and design; integral planters or wing walls that incorporate landscaped areas and/or places for sitting. Structures over 65,000 square feet shall have a minimum of two entryways.

f)     Screening of Mechanical Equipment. Roof- or ground-mounted mechanical equipment shall be screened to mitigate noise and views in all directions. If roof-mounted, the screen shall be designed to conform architecturally with the design of the building, whether it is with varying roof planes or with parapet walls. Ground-mounted mechanical equipment shall be screened. The screen shall be of such material and be of sufficient height to block the view and noise of the equipment.

3. Review under Criteria 5, 6, 7, 8, 9A and 10 of 10 VSA 6086 (Act 250) as authorized by 24 VSA 4414 (3) C.

B.Pursuant to Section 1419 of the Zoning Ordinance, the DRB may conduct at the applicant’s expense an independent technical review of areas of the proposed application that are of concern to the Board.

C.Pursuant to Section 1321 of the Zoning Ordinance, the burden of proof to satisfy all standards of Sections 2337.A.1 and 2337.A.2 shall be on the applicant seeking Site Plan Approval and Conditional Use Approval from the Development Review Board.

D.Notwithstanding the provisions of 10 V.S.A. §§ 6086(a)(9)(A) and 6088(b), the burden of proof shall be on the applicant with respect to Sections 2337.A.2.b.4 and 2337.A.3.

E. “Floor Area”shall include any retail space on the same or contiguous lots sharing check out stands, management, or a controlling ownership interest.  A Shopping Center may have a Floor Area greater than 65,000 square feet so long as no single Retail Store, Factory Retail Store, or Supermarket has a Floor Area greater than 65,000 square feet, unless approved under Section 2337.A.

F. Nothing in this Ordinance shall be construed to limit the applicability of provisions of 10 V.S.A. §6086 if otherwise required by statute.

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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.