Follow the Bouncing Big Box

Big Box ordinance winds its way back to council

A revised version of the Big Box Ordinance bounced back from council to the Planning Commission for review on Jan. 16.

A key change forwarded by City Council Member Lee Leffingwell was a developer-friendly provision to allow a single, combined public hearing for 1) the big-box retail conditional-use permit and 2) rezoning. But with the city legal department uncomfortable putting a time limit on the approvals granted at such a hearing, advocates at Liveable City (the nonprofit that originally forwarded the ordinance) were wary of the change. Their concern: Big-box zoning could be approved for a site, but the development might not occur for years or decades; the neighborhood would not get another hearing when the big-box superstore actually got built.

A second concern was the unaddressed "adjacent structure loophole.” The ordinance’s expanded public hearing and neighborhood notification requirements apply only to stores of 100,000 square feet and up. A wily retailer easily could prepare a site plan for two adjacent 95,000 structures – Wal-Mart Home and Wal-Mart Grocery, say – to skirt the ordinance. To close the loophole, city staff was considering a language change, tying total limited square footage to a principal retail use and accessories, rather than to a single building.

If the city isn't shut down by ice Tuesday night, we may get yet another version of the ordinance that gets kicked back up to council – again.

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