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Stoughton, Wisconsin, Adopts Big Box Limits

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 1, 2004 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

After months of pressure from a vocal citizens group, the City Council in Stoughton, Wisconsin, adopted an ordinance banning stores over 110,000 square feet.

Stoughton is a community of 12,500 about 20 miles southeast of Madison. Last year, after Wal-Mart announced plans to close its 40,000-square-foot Stoughton outlet to build a 183,000-square-foot supercenter on undeveloped land, a citizens group called Uff-da Wal-Mart formed. Uff-da is a Norwegian expression of disdain.

At Uff-da Wal-Mart’s urging, the city immediately adopted a moratorium on superstore development. The group pushed for a permanent size cap, arguing that giant superstores would destroy Stoughton’s locally owned businesses and lively Main Street, exacerbate traffic and storm water run-off, and lead to higher property taxes due to the burden on roads and public services.

Uff-da Wal-Mart sought a smaller size limit, but the City Council ultimately compromised at 110,000 square feet. The measure will block Wal-Mart’s supercenter plans, at least for now. The company is threatening to abandon its Stoughton outlet altogether and build in the nearby village of Oregon. City councilors who voted against the cap are pushing for a referendum that would allow Wal-Mart to build a slightly smaller 155,000-square-foot supercenter.

Meanwhile, in Tampa, Florida, Wal-Mart unveiled a prototype 99,000-square-foot supercenter—the smallest Wal-Mart that combines both general merchandise and a full supermarket. If successful, the store will become a model for sliding under many local size caps that have been set around 100,000 square feet.

— Examples of size caps, including many well below 100,000 square feet.

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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

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