Store Size Cap – Tuolumne County, CA

In January 2004, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban retail outlets over 60,000 square feet (about half the size of the average Home Depot store). The vote came after several months of review and more than two hours of public testimony in which residents overwhelmingly endorsed the measure.

Theordinance also requires that proposals for stores between 25,000 and 60,000 square feet obtain a conditional use permit. Approval hinges on demonstrating that the store will be compatible with surrounding buildings and the natural landscape.

TuolomneCounty is located in central California and has a population of 56,000. The ordinance applies to unincorporated areas beyond town boundaries.

Over the last couple of years, developers have expressed increased interest in building superstores in Tuolumne County. In response to a proposed 120,000-square-foot Home Depot store, a grassroots group, Citizens for Responsible Development(CRD), worked with County Supervisor Jim Peterson to initiate a discussion of regulating large-scale development.

Incomments to the Board of Supervisors, CRD said that allowing the county to be overtaken by a handful of large chains would destabilize the local economy. Small retailers spend more money with other local businesses and are more invested in the community, the group argued. CRD presented the county with several policy options, many drawn from this web site. The county chose the 60,000-square-foot limit based on the size of existing retailers.

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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.