City officials in Steamboat Springs, Colorado have turned up the heat on big box retailers.The City council in March passed a three month moratorium with the goal of approving a zoning ordinance that will manage the growth of large scale retail projects. The city’s current zoning code has no specific big box guidelines. The usual regulations for site plans, landscaping and design are there, but not much else. The city’s code does have one interesting “franchise” requirement. If the store’s signs were stripped off,the building should not be recognizeable by its architecture as a franchise store. According to a story in the Steamboat Pilot newspaper, planners in nearby Fort Collins, Colorado enacted a tougher big box zoning code, but failed to enact a cap on the size of buildings. Wal-Mart came to that city with a 205,000 s.f store. “Had we known that back in 1994,” said the Fort Collins planner, “we likely would have said we have got to cap the size.”
A 90 day moratorium does not give Steamboat Springs much time to come up with a plan that will satisfy enough residents. Unless they cap the size of buildings, and put in place a Major Development Review process that requires independent studies, like traffic and economic cost/benefit, they are likely to wind up like Fort Collins, with huge box stores too big for the rest of the community.