Big-box law goes to council

— Two weeks before a 90-day moratorium on big-box retail expires, the City Council is expected to approve permanent regulations for large retail stores.

The final reading of the city's big-box ordinance goes before the council Tuesday. The ordinance limits retail stores located south and east of 13th Street to 20,000 square feet. It also requires any store larger than 12,000 square feet to go through a planned-unit development process, which is a more subjective planning process and requires that applicants show that public advantages out weights the disadvantages.

When the council looked at the first reading of the ordinance May 18, it requested that staff add wording to the community development code that would require large stores to demonstrate public benefit, with larger stores required to show greater benefit.

The city code lists four ways a store could demonstrate public benefit: having excellent design, improving neighborhood services, providing economic sustainability, and providing or preserving affordable housing.

The changes to the ordinance would require stores 12,000 to 20,000 square feet to meet one or more of those provisions. Stores between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet should have two or more of the provisions. Stores between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet should have at least three of the provisions and stores more than 40,000 square feet should meet all four of the provisions.

On March 16, the City Council adopted an emergency ordinance preventing developers from submitting applications for retail buildings larger than 12,000 square feet. That moratorium will expire June 14.

On April 13, the council held a joint meeting with the city Planning Commission in which the groups decided to create a short-term ordinance that could be amended. The city staff is continuing to work on more stringent design standards for big-box stores.

Residents have asked the council to consider other regulations, not included in the proposed ordinance, to regulate big-box stores west of town. The Community Alliance, for example, suggested prohibiting lot consolidation on commercial properties, set a maximum lot size and reexamine how much of the lot can be covered by buildings and other surfaces such as parking lots.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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