Development Moratoria and Size Cap – Easton, MD

Date: 1 Dec 2008 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Prompted by several applications for retail development in excess of 500,000 square feet, larger than anything anticipated by the town’s existing Comprehensive Plan, the Easton Town Council enacted a temporary moratorium on new “big box” retail stores in September 1999. The purpose of the moratorium was to allow time for residents and town officials to consider the impacts of large-scale retail and amend the town zoning law accordingly.

After a series of public hearings and other forums, the Planning Commission released a report concluding, “Once a big box retail store exceeds 65,000 square feet. . . it is of such a scale that its negative impacts outweigh its positive ones and as such has no place in Easton for the remaining plan period.”

“Easton is a unique small town which derives its identity, in considerable part from its historic Downtown area and the residential neighborhoods which are in easy walking distance of the Downtown,” noted the Commission, which recommended that future development emulate this pattern.

In March 2000, the Town Council adopted Ordinance No. 399, which prohibits retail stores larger than 65,000 square feet and bars the Board of Zoning Appeals from granting a variance to allow a larger store.  The rules also require retail stores in excess of 25,000 square feet to obtain a permit from the Council.

In August 2004, the Easton Town Council relaxed its store size cap to allow stores within three existing shopping centers to expand beyond 65,000 square feet and to permit superstores to locate on land abutting or across the street from those shopping centers. Officials said the change was necessary to prevent big-box stores from sprawling into areas just beyond the town’s borders, even though the surrounding county, Talbot County, had effectively prevented that possibility by also adopting a 65,000 square foot size limit.

 

The Moratorium Ordinance

AMENDED ORDINANCE NO.390

AN ORDINANCE OF THE TOWN OF EASTON AMENDING THE EASTON ZONING ORDINANCE BY ADDING SECTION 1000 TO IMPOSE A TEMPORARY MORATORIUM UPON THE REVIEW AND CONSIDERATION OF BIG BOX RETAIL APPLICATIONS AND TO REQUIRE THE EASTON PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION TO INITIATE A REVIEW OF THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND ZONING REGULATIONS REGARDING SUCH USES AND TO REPORT TO THE TOWN COUNCIL REGARDING ITS RECOMMENDATIONS

INTRODUCED BY Mr. Ford

WHEREAS, the Town of Easton is authorized by Maryland Annotated Code Article 66B §4.01 et seq. to enact and administer a zoning ordinance, which ordinance is Chapter 28 of the Easton Town Code;

Whereas, the Zoning Ordinance allows property owners to construct commercial retail operations in buildings in excess of 25,000 square feet only after the property owner has been granted a planned unit development or planned major retailing rezoning application by the Town Council; and

Whereas, after a considering the information presented to it by the Planning and Zoning Commission in a report to the Council dated June 18, 1999 and at public hearings held on this Ordinance, the Easton Town Council finds:

Currently, the Town of Easton is under unprecedented development pressure for commercial retail projects featuring “big box” retail uses. There are numerous reasons for this. Among them are:

– the Town’s widely-recognized reputation as one of the finest small towns in America;

– “Smart Growth” land use policies enacted by the State of Maryland and Talbot County to funnel growth to Easton and other incorporated municipalities;

– the relatively short driving distance between Easton and the booming Annapolis region; and

– Easton’s emerging role as a bedroom community for people who commute to Annapolis, Baltirnore and Washington, D.C.

Easton is confronted with three large scale commercial PUD developments which would add approxirnately 766,000 square feet of retail shopping space to Easton. All of these projects feature big box retail uses as integral features. These projects have raised concerns based upon possible adverse traffic, aesthetic and environmental effects as well as the possibility that the big box PUD’s will erode or eliminate Easton’s unique small town character and undermine a long series of efforts by the Town to support the Downtown as a retail area. At the public hearing held on this Ordinance, Petrie, Dierman and Kughn, one of the proposed developers, supported the imposition of a moratorium through the comments of Walter Petrie, one of its principals.

The 1997 Easton Comprehensive Plan does not address retail big box retailing issues in any detailed or comprehensive manner. The absence of clear direction in the Comprehensive Plan has made it difficult to review and evaluate these proposals in a manner which will lead consistent results and could cause the Town’s policy on these issues being developed by a series of ad hoc decisions upon individual applications. These factors, combined with the number, size and scope of proposed projects in the Town, make it possible that projects could be reviewed and approved or disapproved in a manner not consistent with Easton’s long-term needs and goals. A temporary moratorium would provide an opportunity for the citizens of Easton, acting through their elected and appointed officials, to evaluate and consider amendments to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance and to enact such amendments.

The Council also finds that a temporary moratorium upon big box retail applications will leave owners of commercially-zoned properties with a variety of permitted, conditional and planned unit development uses available as development options which will be unaffected by the imposition of the proposed rnoratorium.

Whereas, the Town Council finds that adopting a temporary moratorium upon big box retail development in Easton will create a more stable environment during the moratorium period so that revisions to the Comprehensive Plan and/or the Zoning Ordinance can be formulated, considered and adopted in an orderly and thorough manner.

NOW, THEREFORE, the Town of Easton hereby ordains that:

Section 1. The Easton Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 28 of the Easton Town Code) is amended by the addition of Section 1000 thereto which shall read as follows:

Section 1000. Temporarv Moratorium Upon Big Box Retail Applications.

(A) The Planning and Zoning Commission shall not accept, review or continue to review any applications for planned unit development or planned major retailing rezoning applications which incorporate in whole or in part proposals to construct or operate one or more “big box retail” uses, as that term is defined in this Ordinance.

(B) The Town Council shall not hold any public hearings upon any applications planned unit development rezoning applications which incorporate in whole or in part proposals to construct or operate one or more “big box retail” uses.

(C) The provisions of this Section 1000 shall apply to applications currently pending before the Town as of August 16, 1999 as well as applications filed after that date.

(D) The Planning and Zoning Commission shall institute such steps as it deems necessary to determine whether the Town of Easton Comprehensive Plan should be arnended to address the issues raised by big box retail and commercial development in and around Easton and to enact such plan amendments. In addition, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall submit one or more reports to the Town Council in writing on or before December 1, 1999, containing such recommendations as it deems appropriate for amendments to the Easton Zoning Ordinance or other land use regulations of the Town.

(E) Absent further action by the Town Council, the provisions of this Section shall lapse and be of no further effect as of three month after the effective date of Ordinance No.390.

Section 2. In accordance with Article II Section 9 of the Easton Town Charter, this ordinance shall become effective twenty (20) calendar days after approval by the Mayor or passage of this ordinance by the Council over the Mayor’s veto.

I hereby certify that the above Ordinance was passed by a yea and nay vote of the Council this twentieth day of September, 1999.

Robert C. Willey, Town Council President

Delivered to the Mayor by me this 30th day of September, 1999.

Robert F. Karge, Town Clerk

APPROVED: September 30, 1999
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 20, 1999

C. Eugene Butler, Mayor

_______

The Store Size Cap Ordinance

ORDINANCE NO. 399

AN ORDINANCE OF THE TOWN OF EASTON AMENDING THE EASTON ZONING ORDINANCE BY ADDING SECTION 608.2A.4.M TO IMPOSE A MAXIMUM SIZE LIMITATION OF 65,000 SQUARE FEET UPON ALL “BIG BOX RETAIL” STORES AND BY ADDING SECTION 803.5.C(10) TO PROVIDE THAT THE EASTON BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS SHALL NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO GRANT A VARIANCE FROM THE 65,000 SQUARE FOOT SIZE LIMITATION

WHEREAS, the Town of Easton is authorized by Maryland Annotated Code Article 66B §4.01 et seq. to enact and administer a zoning ordinance, which ordinance is Chapter 28 of the Easton Town Code;

Whereas, the Zoning Ordinance allows property owners to construct commercial retail operations in buildings in excess of 25,000 square feet only after the property owner has been granted a planned unit development or planned major retailing rezoning application by the Town Council; and

Whereas, on September, 1999, the Town Council enacted Ordinance Number 390 which imposed a ninety day moratorium upon big box retail applications to give the elected and appointed officials of the Town, as well as interested members of the public, an opportunity to examine all aspects of big box retailing and its potential impacts upon Easton which process included a Town Council/ Planning Commission workshop, workshops by the Planning and Zoning Commission symposia, and public comment, both written and oral, from private citizens and interest groups; and whereas,

Whereas, after considering the information and viewpoints generated by this process, the Easton Planning and Zoning Commission presented a report on December 1, 1999 to the Town Council regarding commercial retail operations in Easton in excess of 25,000 square feet (so-called “big box retail” uses) which among other things, recommended that the Council amend the Zoning Ordinance to limit the maximum size of such buildings, including outside retail areas, at 65,000; and

Whereas, for the reasons outlined in the Planning and Zoning Commission Report to the Town Council, the Council finds that the limiting the size of additional big box retail stores in Easton to 65,000 square feet will inure to the benefit of the health, safety and welfare of the Town of Easton and its residents.

NOW, THEREFORE, the Town of Easton hereby ordains that:

Section 1. The Easton Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 28 of the Easton Town Code) is amended by the addition of Section 60~A.4.m which shall read as follows:

Section 608.2A.4.m maximum size
No structure shall exceed 65,000 square feet in gross floor area. For the purposes of this subsection, the term “gross floor area” shall include outside retail areas.”

Section 2. The Easton Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 28 of the Easton Town Code) is amended by the addition of Section 803~.C(10) which shall read as follows:

Administration Board of Appeals – Powers and Duties …. Variances

Section 803.5.C(10)
Nothing in this Chapter shall give the Board the authority to grant a variance from the provisions of §608.2.A.4.m relating to the maximum size of big box retail uses.”

Section 3. After the effective date of this Ordinance, no building in the Town shall be constructed, expanded, alters or modified except in conformity herewith. This Ordinance shall apply to all matters pending before Me Town as of its effective date.

Section 4. In accordance with Article II Section 9 of the Easton Town Charter, this ordinance shall become effective Event (20) calendar days after approval by the Mayor or passage of this Ordinance by the Council over the Mayor’s veto.

I hereby certify that the above Ordinance was passed by a yea and nay vote of the Council this day of 2000.

Robert C. Willey, Town Council President

Delivered to the Mayor by me this day of 2000.

Robert F. Karge, Town Clerk

APPROVED:

C. Eugene Butler, Mayor

EFFECTIVE DATE: 2000

 

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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 partners with a wide range of allies to implement policies that counter concentrated power and strengthen local economies.