Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hearing on Large Scale Retail Moratorium

On Tuesday evening, the Tacoma City Council heard from numerous people on the August 30th emergency moratorium prohibiting new applications for retail establishments over 65,000 square feet.  From the outset of the hearing it was clear that large retail establishments are part of the community.

The first commenter noted the convenience of being able to "drive within 15 minutes, get over to Costco or the mall or to Wal-Mart or any number of chain stores or local businesses."  Testimony continued with many people noting the integration of many large businesses into our community.

Unfortunately, there was an implication that those who shop at large retail stores are "bumpkins," as one commenter blatantly put it.  This led to Mayor Strickland reminding the audience that "when we talk about diversity, it can't be based on someone's ideology, but by being truly inclusive as a city...It means people have different habits."

Those supporting the moratorium also seemed to be focused on a proposed development including Wal-Mart.  As the City Attorney noted at the hearing, "the [Wal-Mart] application has been determined complete which triggers vesting.  So to the extent the planning commission process kicks out other regulations, they are likely not to impact this project."

The Chamber continued to advocate for ending the moratorium outright, as previously identified in its letter to the Planning Commission (here).  However, the Chamber also recognized the hard work the Planning Commission put into considering how to refine the moratorium to impact only new and substantially expanded buildings with the Mixed Use Centers - exactly where the testimony supporting the moratorium has been focused.

The Chamber asked the Council to consider the following if the moratorium was truly needed:
-Use the term "building" rather than the undefined "establishment" when talking about the building size.
-Maintain the new building and expansion thresholds of the Planning Commission while also raising the floor to allow buildings up to 100,000sf.
-Keep the moratorium at the original 6-mos.

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