Store Size Cap – Whatcom County, WA

In September 2008, Whatcom County in Washington state adopted a store size cap measure limiting retail stores to no more than 65,000 square feet in urban growth areas and no more than 35,000 square feet in the rest of the county.

Situated in northwest Washington state, Whatcom County has a population of 167,000. Its largest city, Bellingham, adopted a size cap of 90,000 square feet in 2007. Another community in the county, Lynden, limits the size of retail stores to 65,000 square feet. The county’s ordinance, which passed the County Council on a 5-2 vote, notes that”urban services are best left to incorporated cities” and states that the measure is necessary to ensure that growth “is in-scale with the community, does not damage downtown cores, respects neighboring uses, and creates community-sized pockets of retail development to prevent a loss of a sense of place.”

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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.