PLANNING COMMISSION BIG BOX REVIEW SUBCOMMITTEE MINUTES
Himmel Park Library Meeting Room
1035 North Treat Avenue
May 23, 2002
Members: Rob Tomlinson, Chairperson; Bob Morgan; Grace Evans; Thomas Sayler-Brown
Staff: Sarah More, Jennifer Noriega, and Kathy Buchanan, Planning; Michael McCrory, City Attorney's Office; Larry Cummings, Economic Development
Interested Parties: John Rupley, El Con Resident; Connie Diamos; Bill DuPont, Colonia Solana NA; Mary Beth Savel, Lewis & Roca; Anne Murray; Carmen Vitello; and Terry Dee, Home Depot
1. Call to Order: Rob Tomlinson, the Subcommittee Chair, called the meeting to order at 4:10 p.m.
2. Introductions: Those in attendance were introduced.
3. Minutes for Approval: Motion by Grace Evans, seconded by Thomas Sayler-Brown, and carried unanimously by a voice vote of 4 to 0 (Joyce Joosten, absent) to approve the minutes of the May 16, 2002, meeting.
4. Discussion of Large Retail Establishments Ordinance: Rob indicated he hopes to go to the Planning Commission in study session in July. He would like to go the Planning Commission for public hearing in August and to the Mayor and Council in September. Bob Morgan said that provided for five more meetings before taking it to the Planning Commission in study session.
Rob began by discussing the memo prepared by Frank Bangs, "Proposed Summary of Big Box Revision Issues."
John Rupley indicated he had trouble with Section A. He said the focus is on small things, whereas, the main purpose should be, "Is there a way to exclude a big box from an area that is inappropriate?"
Sarah asked if the Subcommittee wanted to encourage big boxes in certain locations and discourage them in others. She said this could be done through procedural requirements. She said the process could be made easier if the big box was located in an appropriate area. She suggested using the word "encourage."
Thomas said he understood that if a particular zone allows a certain type of use it cannot be excluded.
Mary Beth Savel stated that the issue needs to be looked at on two levels. The first is the impact when the use is located adjacent to a less intense use, such as a neighborhood. In this case, things to be considered are walls, setbacks, lighting, etc. In terms of the larger community, we need to look at how big boxes are located in various areas.
Anne Murray said that the original big box ordinance was prepared in response to neighborhood concerns. She said data has been gathered which indicates that, in addition to the social impacts of a big box, there are also negative fiscal and economic impacts on cities.
Concerning items A.1 and A.2, Michael McCrory asked what was meant by the use of the word "uncompensated." He suggested deleting that word. He said he felt A.3 was not a valid purpose in relation to land use. Regarding A.4, he stated there are significant impacts from a big box—an overlap in land use and economic impacts.
Rob said that, concerning the history of several ordinances, there have been some that have been adopted quickly due to incendiary issues involving neighborhoods. He used the "Wireless Communications" ordinance as an example. He stated that in this case the Sam Hughes Neighborhood objected to a pole being placed in Himmel Park. He said the big box impact had been an issue for a long time and adoption of the ordinance was not solely due to El Con. Sarah agreed, noting that the design guidelines for big box stores had been drafted before the El Con issue. Rob said it would have been done a year later anyway. John stated there was widespread recognition that El Con was not the place for a big box and that there should be a mechanism for adjudication of those cases.
Terry Dee questioned the statement that a big box in El Con was deemed an inappropriate land use. He asked how anything in El Con could be deemed inappropriate. El Con already existed as a regional shopping center and included big buildings.
Rob said that, in terms of direction, there is an interface with economic planning, but we are most concerned with the land use issue. Michael agreed and said that finances are not a land use issue.
Rob indicated we must look at the land use impacts. Bob asked if there was an inference that the LUC should give advantage to certain businesses over others. He said small businesses do not have to compete with larger ones; for example, Bookman's does not go head-to-head with Barnes and Noble or Borders. John said we have a history of giving advantage to local businesses. Grace suggested that the Purpose statement should indicate appropriate siting for all commercial activities.
Michael said we need to distinguish between regulating economic impact and land uses, although the two issues are intertwined. He stated that outlawing big boxes is a land use decision. We need to focus on the land use impacts rather than on the economic impacts. Bob asked Michael if he was saying that the City needed to be neutral or biased. Michael answered, neither. He said we must simply focus on land use—not protect one use over another.
Anne said this brings us back to the issue of appropriate siting of big boxes. Does it have a place in the community? She said we need to look at whether or not there might be better geographic locations. She said that statistical information exists indicating that in the long term small businesses are more productive economically than power centers.
Rob stated that this is a land use planning body. He said we need to be sure we do not make decisions that have no bearing on the LUC.
Larry Cummings stated that the State of Arizona prohibits giving advantage to one company over another. He said we have gone from discussing the size of buildings to discussing the size of companies.
Sarah said that in talking about land use and economic development we have heard about wage issues, employment, impacts on other local businesses, etc., and she wondered if Larry was able to obtain information from other communities. Larry indicated he had not yet obtained any. He said he is trying to get it. Sarah asked if he was aware of companies not coming to Tucson because of the big box ordinance. He said he had worked with a company called Home Base a few years ago. They were considering locating three to five stores in Tucson, and when the ordinance was adopted, they pulled out, although he believes they have now "gone under" anyway. Mary Beth stated that they had.
Michael said in some cases the land use issue was that C-1 does not allow outside storage. Sarah indicated that at the time of the Zoning Code Revision Subcommittee meetings the nature of C-1 was discussed. It had been previously considered a local neighborhood business zone, but the nature has changed over the years. A gas station years ago is a lot different than a gas station now which might include 16 pumps, bright lighting, sales of beer and hot dogs, etc. The question at the time of the Code Revision meetings was whether or not to turn C-1 back into a local neighborhood business zone. She also mentioned that, for example, a Target without a garden center would be allowed in C-1 zoning.
Larry said there is a chain currently looking at Tucson which would be a big box and has no garden center. Sarah said it would be allowed in C-1 under the current ordinance. She suggested that the Subcommittee consider whether C-1 is an appropriate zone for big box stores.
Larry said that, in working for the Economic Development office, he has found that if a company is looking at Tucson for location of three stores it will always pick the sites on which is it easiest to develop. His goal is to get them to develop within the City limits. Mary Beth asked what they were looking at. Larry said that if they must pursue a rezoning, for example, they may look at another area if they feel the rezoning process is too involved.
Sarah asked about the impacts of big boxes on the local economy—growth and decline in sectors. Larry said it is very difficult to get that information.
John commented that, because the City of Tucson is much more dense than the County, our Code should be very different from the County's. He said the demographics are very different.
Rob said that when the original ordinance was being considered in 1999 it was stated that something like this ordinance would need to be done in the County also. It was determined that, if all big boxes were located outside the city limits, more problems would be caused on our roads. The scales should not be tipped in the County direction.
John said we are not trying to ban big boxes—just assure they are located correctly.
Terry said that when stores are separated, such as paint, lumber, electrical, etc., instead of being located in one building, such as a Lowe's, the number of miles traveled is increased. Rob indicated that one of the first guest speakers before the Subcommittee was Gary Oaks from the Department of Transportation who discussed the traffic impacts of big boxes. Sarah noted that the information he provided was that big box stores are very efficient when it relates to trip generation.
Bill DuPont stated that big boxes are driving out small businesses. He said that in looking at big box development in El Con the impacts of things like hours of operation and hazardous materials on the neighborhood had to be considered. He stated that, when the big box came in, the traffic patterns were already established. He indicated that neighborhoods can work as residents with other groups to assure the best interests of the community are served.
Larry mentioned mixed use development as a successful concept, which includes commercial development on the first floor and residential on the second floor. Sarah stated that mixed use development can reduce trip generation. The number of parking spaces required can be reduced also.
Grace suggested the wording could be, "Encourage appropriate placement of all commercial activities." Rob said perhaps it could say, "Encourage appropriate siting of Large Retail Establishments." Grace agreed and said it could be added to the end, "Encourage appropriate placement of all commercial activities, including Large Retail Establishments."
Terry stated that before going to work for Home Depot he was the manager of an Ace Hardware Store. He said that in 1993 there were 11 Ace Stores in town, and now there are 17. He said this shows that Home Depot does not impact Ace Hardware. He gave another example of the Catalina Theater which is doing very well and does not need to compete with the larger multiscreen theaters in town.
Thomas asked if we are looking at more than big boxes. Sarah answered that it is not clear from the Subcommittee discussion where they want to focus.
Grace asked if we were going to talk about redevelopment of existing commercial centers also. Larry cited the old Smith's at Speedway and Kolb as an example of this problem. He said the owner was trying to see how to make the building more appealing at the time of the ordinance adoption, but it fell through. He said it was being looked at for a Sam's Club. He stated that in some cases these buildings can be used as offices, and he cited the two Best locations as examples of redevelopment of big boxes for other uses, one on Broadway and one on Oracle.
Bob said he would hate to see the ordinance indicate that any big box must have provisions for redevelopment of the building. Rob asked if there was any way to say that if the building falls out of use for six months something must be done with it. Michael responded that it is legally possible to do something like that, especially with new sites. Sarah noted that some retailers hold on to leases after they move; this might be something to prevent.
Rob suggested the following wording for the Purpose statement:
• Encourage the appropriate citing of retail establishments to allow the availability of large scale retail efficiencies while protecting neighborhood scale retail services.
• Protect immediately adjacent, less intensive uses from negative unmitigated impacts of big box uses.
• Encourage the adaptive reuse and redevelopment of existing commercial centers.
There was apparent consensus with this wording.
Larry stated that when the Lowe's organization wanted to develop the site at Oracle and Limberlost he was concerned that Lowe's would be "held hostage" by the neighborhood, but instead, from the very start, Lowe's indicated they planned to work with the neighborhood. That case turned out very well.
Rob moved on to Section B, Applicability, of Frank's memo. Thomas said he felt that item B.1 was an important issue. Rob said that the need for 100,000 square foot buildings does not exist anymore. Sarah noted that at the time of the ordinance development a study of existing facilities was done, and 100,000 square feet was a logical break point. Grace asked if the County limit was 80,000 square feet. Mary Beth responded that it was. Discussion ensued about the varying sizes of big boxes being developed currently.
Bob asked why certain requirements apply to a stand-alone building but do not apply to the same size building within a mall, such as Dillards. Sarah indicated that it would apply now. Any large retail store, including a department store, is subject to the ordinance.
Mary Beth discussed the trend of stores to night delivery and the impacts on neighbors. She noted that retailers, other than big box stores, are also moving toward night delivery.
Thomas said he felt the ordinance should be looked at in terms of an agglomeration of stores, a whole development, rather than individual stores. Thomas asked if a stretch of retail uses totaling 100,000 square feet is considered a Large Retail Establishment. Sarah said it is not.
Sarah said that the current ordinance does not address a shopping center of over 100,000 square feet as long as the individual stores, even if in one building, do not exceed that square footage.
Bill discussed the 55' setback for the Target on Old Spanish Trail. He indicated that all delivery will go behind the small pads. He asked if setbacks generally apply to the whole project or to particular buildings. Michael indicated that it depends on how an ordinance is worded. Sarah said that the ordinance addresses both the whole site and the individual buildings. She stated that the whole site is addressed concerning pedestrian access, traffic, etc. However, setbacks do not apply to the whole site, but to the individual big box building.
Thomas suggested determining what the problem with the current ordinance is before trying to figure out how to apply it. He said Frank's memo includes a list of some of the issues, under Section D. He asked if those are the issues and suggested the Subcommittee begin by defining the problem. Michael suggested that the Performance Criteria headings in the existing ordinance be looked at, in addition to looking at those in the County ordinance.
5. Next Meeting: The next meeting will be held on May 30 at 4:00 p.m. in the same location, Himmel Park Library Meeting Room, 1035 N. Treat Avenue.
6. Adjournment: 6:00 p.m.