On 11/3/99 (see index), Newsflash reported that Wal-Mart folded its tent in Stratham, New Hampshire, and left behind many happy residents who watched them leave. Those same residents, the Citizens for Stratham, put a petition on the town meeting warrant to limit the size of big box stores in two commercial districts at 50,000 s.f. and 65,000 s.f. respectively. Although town meeting voters did not approve these caps, they did pass another building cap ordinance with an 80,000 s.f. cap on retail stores. The amendment to place a cap of 80,000 s.f. applies to both the general commercial zone and the light industrial/office zone as well. The 80,000 s.f. cap was offered by the town’s Planning Board, and had to pass by a two-thirds vote. The cap passed with 73% of the vote (1010 to 366), demonstrating that the town overwhelmingly wanted some level of cap on superstore size. The 80,000 s.f. limit means that Wal-Mart could not build a supercenter in Stratham.
Stratham became one of three towns in New England that imposed a cap on building size within the past two weeks. The concept is spreading from town to town because it is an effective, legal way to keep out big stores. For more information on building cap ordinances, contact [email protected]