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Washington Town Limits ‘Formula’ Businesses

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Oct 19, 2005 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

On a 4-2 vote, the City Council in Port Townsend, a community of about 8,500 people on the northwest coast of Washington state, approved an ordinance

that restricts the proliferation of formula retail stores and restaurants.

The ordinance was adopted as a temporary measure in April and made permanent this week after additional legal review and a public hearing.

The ordinance bars all formula retail stores and restaurants over 3,000 square feet. (For comparison, a typical free-standing CVS drugstore is about 15,000 square feet.) Formula businesses smaller than 3,000 square feet are allowed only in a single commercial zone along the main road leading into Port Townsend. They are banned entirely from all other areas of town, including the historic downtown.

Formula restaurants are subject to additional scrutiny and require a conditional use permit from the town in order to open. They are not allowed to open on a corner and must share a building with at least one non-formula business.

A formula businesses is defined as an establishment “which, along with ten or more other retail sales establishments, maintains two or more of the following features: a standardized array of merchandise, a standardized facade, a standardized decor and color scheme, a uniform apparel, standardized signage, a trademark or service mark.”

The ordinance was proposed by a citizens group that formed to fight plans by Hollywood Video to open an outlet next door to a locally owned, independent video store. Although the ordinance comes too late to affect the chain’s opening, Stop Hollywood Video has gathered more than 4,000 signatures from residents pledging to boycott the store.

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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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