Another Wal-Mart supercenter has been scrapped because of the heads up work of local citizens. On March 28, 2006, the Planning and Zoning Commission in Stafford Springs, Connecticut voted to approve a cap on the size of retail buildings. During a moratorium on development, the Commission had been working with a consultant at public workshops over the past six months. The size cap takes effect today. The regulations are similar to those proposed by Stafford First, the citizen’s group that began meeting a year ago in response to a plan submitted by Konover development to build a Wal-Mart supercenter on Route 190. “Forty thousand is a very large business, but not what they call `super,'” commission member Nancy Ravetto, who voted for the cap, told the Hartford Courant. Ravetto explained that traffic from a large store in the business district would clog Main Street. She also prefers light industrial development for Stafford, because it provides more local tax dollars than retail — without the traffic headaches. The Commission debated the size of the cap during their negotiations this week, but Commission Chairman John Mocko insisted that the Commission stay with the 40,000 s.f. number that they had agreed upon earlier in March. This is roughly the same size (35,000 s.f.) of caps that passed in several Maine communities in March as well.
This vote in Stafford caps a process that began in July, 2005, when the Commission voted in favor of a zoning amendment that required a special permit for any retail store in excess of 50,000 s.f. But in September, the Konover development company proposed a zone change that would allow them to build a 150,000 sf. Wal-Mart supercenter in Stafford. Their plan was never submitted to the town. In the same month, September, 2005, the Commission passed a six month moratorium on all retail projects in excess of 30,000 s.f. It was during this moratorium that Stafford First worked on developing language for a building size cap. The language offered by citizens is basically what the Planning & Zoning Commission adopted this week. The group Stafford First invited Sprawl-Busters to speak in their community last spring, and excerpts from that visit were included as a special feature in the Robert Greenwald film, “The High Cost of Low Prices.” For local contacts with Stafford First, contact [email protected]