The Lowe’s “home improvement” chain is telling officials in Castle Rock, Colorado that it is willing to make its store more interesting architecturally — but only if the town is willing to give them corporate welfare. The bizarre proposal surfaced this week, when Lowe’s, the second largest building materials retailer in the world, with more than $36 billion in sales last year, asked for an “economic assistance package” worth roughly $1.6 million. Lowe’s wants to build a store on 12 acres of land on Route 85, and submitted a request to get a “rebate” on half of the sales tax revenue it would generate. That means the local government would lose out on as much as $1.62 million to cover city costs. According to the Colorado Community Newspapers, Lowe’s started off asking for a rebate half that size, but when the town rejected their building plans for not meeting local standards, Lowe’s upped the welfare request. The retailer came back in with plans that the town Planner said “certainly exceed what is typical for a Castle Rock big box store. The building adds visual interest to the northern gateway to Castle Rock.” But the town council was hesitant to shovel money back to the wealthy retailer. In a vote March 28, the council voted 3-3, and now the welfare deal will come up again at the council’s April meeting, before a new council elected at recent town elections.
Lowe’s really does not need the taxpayers of Castle Rock to subsidize the construction of their store. The company is well-off financially, and rapiclky expanding new stores. The idea of providing corporate welfare to the big box chains, means the small hardware and paint stores that pay their full taxes and never asked for a tax break, are at a further competitive disadvantage, because the Lowe’s operation is subsidized. Further, local taxpayers lose out on the use of the money “rebated” to Lowe’s. If the corporation cannot build the kind of store the town wants, the taxpayers should not underwrite the cost of making the project work. There are still plenty of communities out there who couldn’t care less what the big box looks like. The concept of Lowe’s “adding visual interest” to the landscape is a pretty sad statement about Castle Rock.