The city council in Carlsbad, California has decided big box stores are not worth pursuing. The city has been engaged in months of negotiations over whether or not to change its zoning code to allow in big stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The city council agreed March 15th. to put on ice any plans to change the zoning to encourage superstores. The council voted unanimously not to study whether big boxes would benefit the city. According to the North County Times, Mayor Bud Lewis said that he saw no sense in studying the issue because he has no desire to alter the city’s strict zoning regulations. Several other council members stated that voters don’t want any Wal-Marts coming to Carlsbad. Outside the city limits to the north and south there are several Wal-Marts and Home Depots. Current city zoning only allows big stores if they are part of a larger shopping center, not stand-alone stores. After a proposal for a free-standing Lowe’s was submitted, the City Council directed planning staff to write an amendment to the city’s general plan allowing free-standing big box stores in commercial and industrial areas. The proposed amendment failed to win support from the city’s Planning Commission. At a July 7 meeting, the commission urged the council to study it. The council turned down the amendment March 15th.
More and more communities are making the “Carlsbad Choice” to keep out big box stores. The Carlsbad zoning code is a slight twist, in that it allows big box stores, but only as part of a mall. Most big box plans today are free-standing, but if more towns adopted a ban on free-standing stores, Wal-Mart would propose more malls. The Carlsbad zoning rule will not necessarily keep out a big box, but it keeps out a free-standing big box. Congratulations to the Mayor and City Council for not pandering to the developers.