Mayor Bernie Zurbriggen of Frisco, Colorado found himself on the wrong side of the vote this week, when voters in his small town dumped plans for a Home Depot. With a 57% majority, the voters of Frisco made it clear they do not want town officials to continue negotiations with Home Depot over the use of a 9.4 acre parcel. The actual vote was 566 against and 425. The Mayor, who had been pushing the retail project predominately as a revenue-booster, told the Summit Daily News that he took the voter’s rejection personally. “This was a campaign of emotion versus presentation,” the Mayor groused. “I think we do a fairly good job at communicating, but there is a big difference between education and understanding.” Voters who did not “understand” the Mayor’s point of view apparently were considered uneducated by Zurbriggen, who continued to pose the threat of his town running out of revenue. The pro Home Depot side mislead voters by suggesting that if Home Depot were not approved, a list would have to be made of projects to be cut from the budget. In fact, Home Depot is known as a “category killer”, which means it gets its sales from existing businesses’ cash registers. This is hardly a new source of revenue, but more like a game of retail musical chairs. The Home Depot plan was opposed by the Frisco Business Alliance, and the Citizens Against Home Depot.
It is totally disingenuous for local officials to threaten a community with loss of services unless they allow big box sprawl to chew through their business class. No wonder that a theme in the Frisco election was mistrust of government. The fact is, a significant amount of sales to Home Depot are “captured” sales, and those lost sales at other businesses would offset any gains made by Home Depot. “Category killer” is not a term made up by anti-Home Depot activists, but one coined by Wall Street analysts to describe the economic impact on a local community. A Home Depot in a community as small as Frisco is really a regional store to begin with. If only Frisco residents were allowed to shop at the proposed store, it would have folded in less than a year. Yet only Frisco voters could decide the fate of this out-of-scale project. Fortunately, good organizing by the citizen’s groups — even though they were outspent — resulted in a rejection of the project. It appears that Frisco’s Mayor has not yet absorbed the reason for the voter’s rejection of his project.