Saturday, March 26, 2005

Limiting Big Box Retail in Arizona

We are coming up upon the local election season in many areas of the United States. Many municipalities are using these opportunities to present growth management referenda for consideration by local electorates.

One interesting campaign to watch is being waged in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff is the gateway to the Grand Canyon and--while relatively small in population (appx 55,000)--is the major urban center of northern Arizona.

Proposition 100 would uphold a decision by the City Council to place limits on "big box retail" in the city. Among its provisions:
- Limit new retail development buildings to 125,000 square feet
- Require any proposal that exceeds 75,000 square feet to have a comprehensive impact study commissioned by an independent consultant chosen by the City but paid for by the developer
- Cap the amount of floor space dedicated to non-taxable grocery items at 8%

This proposal is quite reasonable. It will not impede consumer choice or businesses from operating there--Flagstaff currently has a Wal Mart that is 115,000 square feet and a Target that is 96,000 square feet. But it will restrict "super-center" monstrosities that decrease neighboring property values, require significant public infrastructure, and adversely affect local businesses.

Every eligible registered voter in Flagstaff will be receiving ballots in the mail beginning mid-April with all ballots being tabulated by 17 May.

There appears to be a strong base of support for the referendum. But according to recent news reports, the opposition appears to be gearing up for a fight. We will be monitoring the campaign and continue to post updates.

In the interim, for people interested in the issues of big box retail, I highly recommend reading the folks over at theboxtank.