Effecting Changes in the "Big Box" Ordinance
Following is an outline proposal for changes in the Big Box ordinance.
The first section lists facts, observations, and principles that I hope
all can agree upon.
The second is boilerplate, but apparently a formal statement of purpose
The last two sections suggest changes in the ordinance, based on
splitting the universe of possible LRE sitings into three parts:
approval by right (e.g., siting in industrial zones),
approval after negotiation between developers, neighbors and
City (siting near residential property),
and approval effectively impossible (siting near Historic Districts, etc.).
The three-tiered regulatory structure would be effected by use of
strongly different performance criteria between the site classes.
The proposal is in outline form; specific performance criteria are generally
The proposal takes into account the
issues of concern
for the affected parties
Planning Department memorandum 4/17/02),
discussion during the Subcommittee meetings about by right approval and
fully-protected sites, and the
memorandum of Frank Bangs 5/23/02.
I. Facts and principles agreed upon:
- LRE has an outsize impact,
recognizably different from traditional retail:
- long hours (16-24 hours) of operation.
- warehouse scale and style:
heavy truck traffic, (un)loading activity, idling.
- scale and style of building, outside;
- scale and style of building, inside;
- arrangement of items for sale.
- high volume, low overhead
- heavy customer traffic.
- outdoor sales.
- Non-linear effect of combining two or more LRE (Power Center).
- LRE **should** be sited with little restriction in some parts of City:
- industrial areas.
- no residential use nearby.
- LRE **should not** be sited in some other parts of city:
- close to Historic Districts or Historic Structures.
- close to cultural or civic centers (Parks, Community Center, etc.)
- close to schools, churchs.
- LRE should be sited with care in residential areas of the city:
- balance between rights of neighbors and of developer.
- try for agreement between neighbors and developer.
- strong mitigations may be necessary.
- LRE is an asset to the community:
cheap; wide merchandise range; jobs.
- LRE is a detriment to the community:
disrupts established businesses and shopping patterns;
for some sites, inappropriate land use; jobs.
- LRE leaves behind vacant hulls:
II. General purposes of the LRE sections of the LUC
- From the LUC:
- To guide new growth and redevelopment of the community in
accordance with the policies of the General Plan.
- To encourage the most efficient use of land through site
sensitive design. [LUC 220.127.116.11]
- To protect and enhance the city's natural, cultural,
historical, and scenic resources. [LUC 18.104.22.168]
- To promote the economic stability of the community.
- To optimally protect and accomodate the interests of all parties:
- the owner and developer of the LRE site;
- the owners and residents of nearby properties and businesses;
- the citizens of Tucson.
- To take into account the facts and principles of Section I.
- To take into account the issues of concern for all parties:
(see separate memoranda and minutes of Subcommittee meetings).
III. Proposed procedures
- Three-tiered LRE code:
- Low-level performance criteria, easily met, for by right
development if sited in preferred area:
- industrial zone
- no residential use within 1 mile.
- Inf. high performance criteria, e.g., setback of 1 mile, to
effectively exclude LRE development in sensitive areas of the
- Historic District or Historic Buildings
- major Cultural or Civic Center (Parks, Community Center,
- schools, churchs, etc.
- High but negotiable performance criteria in other cases, i.e., for
development near residential use.
- The problem thus reduces to tweaking the mechanism for case III.A.3,
LRE siting in a residential area.
- encourage, essentially compel, negotiation, e.g., by
guided (Planning Dept.) pre-application conferences between
developer, neighborhood groups/representatives and City, starting 3
months before formal submission of the application.
- post-approval conferences (a la El Con Mall tripartite commission)
for monitoring mitigations and discussing changes in the
- the specific performance criteria should be
tighter (higher-level) than those of the present Code.
- if the performance
criteria are not set high, there is no incentive
for a developer to meet or to negotiate with neighbors
- tight performance criteria serve to protect the most
- large setback and buffer is the single most important
- to recognize the outsize and synergistic impact of an LRE,
treat all building at the site under the rules for the LRE
- no all-night operations at the site
- no wholesale or manufacturing at the site
- shall not should, else the
performance criteria are toothless
- NOTE: all performance criteria are negotiable between
developer and neighborhoods and City
- the specific performance criteria should be built considering City
- El Con Mall Development Agreement
- LRE approved under the present Code
- .... and the experience of other communities, given, however,
- .... and the issues of concern for both neighbors and developers,
e.g., those identified by the Planning Department (see memoranda)
and those brought forward in testimony before the Subcommittee.
IV. Unaddressed or weakly-addressed questions
- Specifics of the performance criteria: some comments above.
- Applicability: only to "Big Boxes", not to aggregates of smaller
- Threshold: 100,000 ft. sq. found effective in isolating Big Boxes
as a category.
- Redevlopment/Vacant Hulls: incentives perhaps, but no blank
check; performance criteria are negotiable, and removal of a distasteful
vacancy should itself be a strong incentive favoring redevelopment.
- Limit on Food/Groceries: removal creates a new beast, requiring
stronger constraints to tame it.
- Approval Process, Legislative or Administrative: depends on tier.
- Ambiguities, Unspecific Standards, and Technical Problems:
Last revised: May 30, 2002
John Rupley: email@example.com