The people from Lowe’s home improvement center were not pleased, but officials in Olympia, Washington this week passed a six month moratoriium on new big box stores, to give the community time to study the impact of big stores, and decide what the city should do about regulating them. One day after the moratorium was passed, Lowe’s faxed to the city a letter regarding its plans to build a 134,840 s.f. store on the west side of town. In their letter, Lowe’s “requests that the city of Olympia not restrict development of the former landfill site next to TOP Foods and allow us to continue with our planned development of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store on this site.” But Lowe’s failed to file a permit application with the city, and is not considered to be vested in the project. The moratorium means they cannot submit a plan for consideration at this point. The Olympia moratorium will apply to stores larger than 125,000 s.f. “We’re looking at the effect large stores have on the community in displacing smaller businesses,” Councilman Curt Pavola told the Olympian newspaper. “What happens now will last in our community for 20 years or more.” The city will hold a public hearing on the moratorium March 15th. Olympia officials said they decided to pass a moratorium at a retreat they had recently. City officials were concerned about what happened last year in Tumwater, Washington. As reported by Sprawl-Busters, Tumwater passed a six month moratorium on big box stores — but Wal-Mart submitted an application for a 207,000 s.f. superstore three hours before the moratorium was passed, and officials have considered since then that the company had escaped the effects of the moratorium by beating the clock. Olympia officials have six months to reinvent their development regulations, which could include a permanent cap on the size of buildings.
For information on the Tumwater story, search Newsflash by the name of the city. Search by “moratoriums” for other stories on that topic. Activists should check their state’s zoning law for how to adopt a moratorium at the local level, and try to adopt such a moratorium before another big box store tries to come to town.