PLANNING COMMISSION BIG BOX REVIEW SUBCOMMITTEE
Himmel Park Library Meeting Room
1035 North Treat Avenue
April 11, 2002, Minutes
Members: Rob Tomlinson, Chairperson; Grace Evans; Bob Morgan
Staff: James Maurer and Jennifer Noriega, Planning; Michael McCrory, City Attorney's Office
Interested Parties: John Rupley, El Con Resident; Robert Samuels, El Conquistador;
Karen Leone, Ward 2; Bennett Bernal, Ward 3; Thomas Sayler-Brown, Sayler-Brown Bolduc Architects; Connie Diamos; Mary Beth Savel, Lewis and Roca; Bill Dupont, Colonia Solana NA
Call to Order: Rob Tomlinson, the Subcommittee Chair, called the meeting to order at 4:12 p.m.
2. Introductions: All new attendees introduced themselves.
Rob mentioned George Larson, a commercial broker, as a possible addition to the Subcommittee, if it is expanded from three to seven members in the future. Mary Beth Savel said that she would give Rob the names of Neighborhood Association representatives who were involved in the Target Center (in the Irvington Power Center). Rob said he made an effort to contact neighborhood association representatives from the Loews process, and there was no interest from them. Connie Diamos suggested contacting representatives from the neighborhood behind Park Place.
Guest Speaker: Thomas Sayler-Brown discussed his architectural background in large scale development. He stated that he is not clear as to what the issues with the current big box ordinance are. He said that the ordinance should provide incentives to using existing buildings for big box redevelopment. The ordinance needs to be sensitive to individual big boxes, as well as to the community. The biggest problem with the big box process is the submittal to agencies in the City of Tucson. He said there should be clearer guidelines on the administration of the process. If the ordinance is more specific, it needs to also be simple. Bob Morgan asked if the administrative difficulties result in an increase in expenses for the developers. Thomas said that approximately 40 hours of his time was added to a project because of these constraints.
4. Discussion: Bob stated that there is a concern by residents regarding vacant big boxes. Thomas said that these vacant sites are reusable and can be renovated with creativity by the developer.
Grace Evans asked that staff identify specific issues pertaining to the current ordinance. She suggested a list of definitions be added to the ordinance.
Michael McCrory stated that, in order to accomplish flexibility within the ordinance, there must be more subjective guidelines.
Thomas stated that he was not clear as to where the 200-foot residential setback came from. Mary Beth Savel mentioned that there is also an issue with big boxes that are located adjacent to washes, which are residentially zoned. Although the residential property may be hundreds of feet away from the big box location, the 200-foot setback must still be met because the wash is zoned residential.
Grace asked what the expected life of a big box is. Is there any way to address the vacation of big boxes and the responsibility of the owners if a big box is vacated? Michael said that cell towers are an example of owner responsibility.
Mary Beth suggested that someone from Economic Development speak at a future meeting. Rob said he would contact Kendall Bert, the Director.
Rob suggested that the big box ordinance review be limited to the specific establishments. Bill DuPont asked if the total development is reviewed in a shopping center or just the big box. Michael said that from a legal standpoint it would be better to approach the entire site as opposed to only the big box on the site. Rob stated that Sec. 18.104.22.168.K discusses how the Floor Area is calculated. Mary Beth said that smaller stores should not be penalized because they are going into a shopping center with a big box. She said it would be costly for the smaller store because it would have to go through the Special Exception process. All centers should be evaluated in this review process, not only big boxes. Grace agreed with Mary Beth. She said there should be an understanding of the relationship between the whole center and the big box. Michael said that the size of the site, acreage not GFA; the design; traffic control; and pedestrian connections should all be considered. Thomas suggested that maybe part of the review process should be identifying negative impacts (i.e., a 30,000 sq. ft. grocery store may be noisier than a 150,000 sq. ft. hardware store).
Bob Morgan suggested creating a mission statement for the Subcommittee. Rob said that before the next meeting the Subcommittee could prepare something.
John Rupley asked Thomas if his firm met with neighbors early enough to make potential changes, when they went through the process with Loews. Thomas said they did because the key was to have the neighborhood behind them 100 percent. John asked if there could be an incentive added to the ordinance stating that if the developers and neighbors fully agree on a project, it does not have to go through the full process. Michael said that this would not work because the City has to enforce its own regulations.
Bill stated that one issue with big boxes is the hours of operation and the type of store. He said that there might be crime issues with a 24-hour operation, which would cause insurance premiums to rise.
Michael had two suggestions on the mission statement. He said the Subcommittee would probably not be ready to “pin down” the mission statement by next week. He said they do not need to start from scratch, because the ordinance is the result of an extensive process. It has worked in a number of cases.
Rob said that the Subcommittee should prepare something for a June 5, 2002, Planning Commission study session. He suggested a schedule that covered the performance criteria. Grace said that there are issues that need to be reviewed, such as:
Information regarding commercial areas in the City that are available for big box retail
List of principles
Success stories under the current Ordinance
List of issues associated with the current Ordinance
Rob asked how the process could be streamlined if a site is compatible for a big box.
Bob said he would like to see the Subcommittee move forward with the review. Rob said he would formalize the schedule for future agendas. Bob suggested posting the meeting notice in the Arizona Daily Star's Sunday City Page. Rob said they should draft a letter to the Mayor and Council informing them of the responsibilities of the Subcommittee so time is not wasted.
5. Rob wrapped up the meeting and said that there will be more speakers next week.
The next meeting will be on April 18 at 4 p.m. in the same location, Himmel Park Library meeting room, 1035 N. Treat.
6. Adjournment: 5:50 p.m.