WERD not Deterred!
Despite the Town of Wawarsing’s dismissal, at this time, of the suggested moratorium which would have allowed time for the Town to do impact studies and strengthen zoning laws to protect Wawarsing against the adverse effects of “big box” developments, WERD (Wawarsing-Ellenville for Responsible Development) is moving ahead with a campaign to educate the public about the impact a Wal-Mart supercenter could have on local businesses, potential employees, and the region, while continuing to advocate for the moratorium and other protective measures.
“We’re certainly not giving up,” said Steve Krulick, the group’s facilitator. “The Town Board didn’t get it. The pro-Wal-Mart people at the last meeting weren’t addressing the moratorium at all,” he continued, “which is a more comprehensive measure than merely dealing with one store.”
The group, which has doubled in size from its original members, continues to gather support as they held another meeting January 25th. Among the new participants:
Tom Gale, a town representative to the Shawangunk Scenic Byway coalition, spoke of the detracting effect a Wal-Mart store would have on the corridor’s appearance and a visitor’s overall experience. “We chose not to extend the corridor further south because of the Kohl’s warehouse on Rte. 209 and the threat of the mushroom plant, which would further spoil the view,” he said at Thursday night’s meeting. Ken Hassett, a representative of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (one of two unions representing employees at ShopRite), brings with him experience in the ongoing battles with Wal-Mart throughout the state. David Porter, the co-author of Megamall on the Hudson: Planning, Wal-Mart, and Grassroots Resistance was a key figure in stopping the proposed Wal-Mart project in New Paltz, and will be available to offer his expertise.
Ready to actively engage the community, WERD has set dates in February to offer a free screening of the film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices at the Ellenville Public Library’s Community Room. The film is a documentary that shows the impact Wal-Mart stores have on local economies, communities, and individuals in towns throughout America. A brief question-and-answer session will follow. The film will be shown Wednesday, Feb.7th and Friday, Feb.23rd from 7 - 9 p.m. with refreshments offered.
An informational panel, with representatives from labor, environmental, business, and community groups has also been planned for early March.
WERD plans to continue putting pressure on the Town Board to adopt the moratorium by initiating a petition drive. The petition asks the Town to, “fully study the possible impacts of new, large-scale developments to our economy, community, and environment, so that appropriate protections for the Town be added to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code.” As the group’s website (www.w-e-r-d.org) states: “W-E-R-D has been established to address concerns over locating any “big box” retail stores within the Town of Wawarsing. Although there are clear needs for enhanced shopping opportunities within our community, we support locally-owned, appropriately-scaled retailers as being in the best overall interest of the long-term economic and social health of our Village and Town.” They will continue with the intention of educating the community and focusing on alternatives to “big box” development in Wawarsing.
Draft Moratorium for Town
As I have not heard back from Town Hall or the Town Attorney as to whether a draft moratorium has been prepared, or what it would contain, I've decided to prepare such a draft, and present it with some support material in advance of the Town Board meeting Thursday, Jan. 5th.
My concern for the Town and Village is that time is of the essence. For example, in Tumwater, Washington, Wal-Mart rushed a zoning proposal to the city offices just three hours before the Council voted to put into place a moratorium on large scale retail developments. Now, even though moratoria can be introduced while applications are in process, they are far stronger (and less likely to result in lawsuits against the Town) if approved before ANY such applications have been filed. One solution is to draft the moratorium to be retroactive to when it was first introduced or earlier, as this report from the Town of Ballston, NY, in 2005 shows:
"Despite Wal-Mart's efforts to file a plan before the town of Ballston, New York could impose a moratorium, it appears that the giant retailer will be in limbo for at least the next five months--and may never build a store in this small town. On March 1st. the Ballston Town Board voted unanimously to impose a moratorium retroactive to February 2nd. The moratorium bans any work on large scale retail projects, and the town says it will hold for the Wal-Mart supercenter plan submitted to the town on February 18th." (The process in Ballston took roughly two years to finally decide that Wal-Mart's application should be ultimately denied.)
Here's some support material that gave the reasons for Ballston's moratorium:
"The Town of Ballston, facing increasing residential and commercial development pressures, the Town Council instituted a temporary moratorium to allow the community time to establish a vision and a direction for the future. To achieve a vision, the Town has decided to take a comprehensive look at issues related to its continued growth and development. The Town's primary concerns looking forward include ensuring the community retains its rural, small-town character, remains a great place to live and that the area's natural resources, open spaces and agricultural land are protected.
Due to the impending growth pressures facing the Town of Ballston, it was necessary for the Town to enact a temporary moratorium, prepare the Comprehensive Plan and consider amendments to the Town's zoning and subdivision regulations. It is in the public's interest for the Town to take a hard look at the potential growth pressures and determine how best to address the situation in a fair an equitable manner.
The Town of Ballston aspires to preserve its working agricultural landscapes, natural resources, and high quality of life as it continues to accommodate residential and commercial growth. The community has expressed a desire to maintain the small town and rural qualities still present throughout much of the Town. As the Capital Region continues to attract new commercial growth and new residents, the Town seeks to manage this growth in a manner that maintains the best of the Town of Ballston's character for this and future generations. Overall, development in this area should be sensitive to the scale and context of the community."
Development moratoria allow communities to place a temporary halt on new development so that local officials can examine the impact of proposed development and put measures in place to manage it. Moratoria enable local planning departments to consider issues often associated with big-box sprawl development, such as increased traffic, loss of community character and economic displacement. The moratorium is used to consider how these and other issues might affect the community and what measures should be adopted to protect the public's interest.
And this protection and concern should and MUST take into account effects on neighboring or INTERNAL municipalities, in this case, the Village of Ellenville:
"Does a municipal board have to consider extraterritorial environmental impacts, e.g., impacts occurring in an adjoining municipality? Yes. For example, a planning board reviewing a cellular communications tower visible from a neighboring community should consider the aesthetic impact of the tower on the neighboring community. A town planning board reviewing a big box development should consider the impact of the development on the community character of a neighboring village that might suffer business displacement as a result of the approval of the big box development. A third example is a community reviewing a shopping plaza that generates traffic on an adjoining community's roadway system. In that case, the host community's review should consider the traffic on the adjoining community." From SEQR Handbook
My concern is that the current Town comprehensive plan and zoning code is likely seriously deficient in addressing these and other issues, as nothing like this has ever come to the town's attention! Hence, they were simply not considered or incorporated into the necessary community protections a plan and code should include. Thus, a moratorium on large retail development would give the Town time to review its existing plan and code and determine whether these deficiencies should be addressed, and how best to do so. Several options are available (economic & community impact analysis, "major development review" ordinances, size cap, formula/chain quota/cap, etc.), and these can be presented during the moratorium phase.
Fort Collins, Colorado, provides an example of a city that adopted a development moratorium to study sprawl-related concerns. The city's action came after several large chains announced plans almost simultaneously to build sprawling superstores in an area the city wanted to protect from sprawl. To give local planners time to examine the various planning issues presented by the "big boxes," the city council enacted a six-month moratorium on the construction of all superstores. In explaining the reasons for the moratorium, Ordinance 111 stated:
a) that the City has recently been presented with development proposals for large, general and special merchandise stores, sometimes known as "superstores;"
b) that the bulk, size and scale of such superstores present unusual land use concerns for the City, especially with regard to the aesthetic and transportation impacts of such uses;
c) that considerable study is needed in order to determine the appropriate location for such land uses, the kind of design criteria which should be used to mitigate the visual impacts of the same, and the kind of infrastructure requirements which should be imposed to offset the parking and traffic impacts of such developments; and
d) that the development of superstores, in the absence of appropriate regulatory guidelines, may have an irreversible negative impact upon the City.
The moratorium suspended the review and processing of all superstore development applications and permits for projects exceeding 80,000 square feet. Projects with preliminary or final approval in hand were exempted from the moratorium.
In the interim, Fort Collins appointed a special task force charged with developing design guidelines appropriate for superstores. These guidelines, developed in consultation with Clarion Associates of Denver, were ultimately adopted and implemented. They require superstores to be more pedestrian oriented, better-designed, and generally more compatible with their surroundings.
Skaneateles, New York, enacted a six-month moratorium in 1994 for reasons similar to those motivating Fort Collins. The moratorium stated:
As a beautiful and historic town... Skaneateles faces significant development and growth pressures. It is reasonably anticipated that, with preparation of a comprehensive plan and significant zoning law revision underway, a flood of applications for new development could likely be received from applicants hoping to ease in under the wire before revised zoning is enacted.
The threat of possible damage to the Town from the conditions listed above is substantial, and it is apparent to the Town Board that the current zoning and subdivision laws are not sufficient to protect the character, health and welfare of the Town, nor the quality and integrity of Skaneateles Lake.
To prevent economic hardships for individual property owners as a result of the moratorium, the ordinance allowed for the consideration of zoning variances.
ORDINANCE NO. 111 (1994) OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF FORT COLLINS
ESTABLISHING A TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF THE PROCESSING OF APPLICATIONS FOR RETAIL "SUPERSTORES" WITHIN THE CITY FOR A PERIOD OF SIX MONTHS
WHEREAS, the City of Fort Collins ("the City"), as a home rule municipality, has broad constitutional and statutory powers to regulate the use of land within its City limits; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to said authority, and the provisions of Article II, Section 5, of the City Charter, the City has adopted certain policies, plans, ordinances and resolutions pertaining to the development of property within the City, including the City's Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Guidance System; and
WHEREAS, the Goals and Objectives element of the City's Comprehensive Plan directs the City to: (1) develop a land use plan which will indicate preferred locations for the various types of economic activities within the City; (2) protect the character of new and existing residential neighborhoods against intrusive and disruptive surrounding development; (3) ensure that future development in the City will be accomplished so as to create the least degradation of the environment; and (4) promote better integration of land development and transportation facilities; and
WHEREAS, the City had recently received applications and/or informal proposals for various retail "superstores" to be located within the City, which superstores present unique land use planning concerns by reason of the bulk, size and scale of such stores, especially with regard to the aesthetic and transportation impacts of the same; and
WHEREAS, considerable study is needed to determine the appropriate location for such uses and the kinds of criteria that should be adopted to regulate the design of same, as well as the kind of infrastructure requirements that may be necessary to accommodate such uses.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF FORT COLLINS as follows:
Section 1. That the Council of the City of Fort Collins hereby makes the following findings of fact:
(a) That the City has recently been presented with development proposals for large, general and special merchandise stores, sometimes known as "superstores."
(b) That the bulk, size and scale of such superstores present unusual land use concerns for the City, especially with regard to the aesthetic and transportation impacts of such uses.
(c) That considerable study is needed in order to determine the appropriate location for such land uses, the kind of design criteria which should be used to mitigate the visual impacts of the same, and the kind of infrastructure requirements which should be imposed to offset the parking and traffic impacts of such developments.
(d) That the development of superstores, in the absence of appropriate regulatory guidelines, may have an irreversible negative impact upon the City.
(e) That the City has not heretofore studied the impacts of superstores, nor has it established locational criteria to ensure that such stores are developed in harmony with the City's Comprehensive Plan, and, particularly, the Goals and Objectives element thereof.
(f) That the integration of land development and transportation facilities goal of the City's Comprehensive Plan requires that the City study and develop criteria for the purpose of regulating the design of multi-modal transportation access to any superstores that might choose to locate in the City.
(g) That it is necessary in the public interest to delay, for a reasonable period of time, the processing of any applications for such stores, to ensure that the design, development and location of the same are consistent with the long-term planning objectives of the City.
(h) That, during the above mentioned period of time, the City should: (1) analyze and determine the type of vehicular trips that are generated by superstores to determine whether such trips are predominately regional, community or neighborhood in nature, in order to establish criteria for the appropriate location of such stores from a transportation standpoint; (2) develop appropriate criteria for regulating the size, architectural design and functional aspects of surrounding development; (3) develop criteria regarding the establishment of parking requirements for superstores to ensure that an adequate supply of parking spaces remains available City-wide to serve the overall street, highway and parking systems in the City; and (4) establish criteria regarding the regulation of the truck traffic that is needed to supply and service such superstores, to ensure that such regulations are in harmony with the transportation provisions of the Goals and Objectives element of the City's Comprehensive Plan.
Section 2. That, as of the effective date of this Ordinance, no Overall Development Plans, preliminary planned unit development applications, applications for site plan review or building permits for superstores within the City will be processed by City staff or reviewed by the City's Planning and Zoning Board.
Section 3. That, for the purposes of this Ordinance, "superstore" shall mean any building, or combination of buildings, intended to be used principally fore the purpose of retail sales and marketing, which exceed(s) eighty thousand (80,000) square feet in size, and for which a single certificate of occupancy would be issued under Section 29-5 of the City Code.
Section 4. That the provisions of the Ordinance shall not affect the processing of applications or the issuance of building permits for uses permitted under planned unit developments or site plan reviews that have received preliminary or final approval by the City on or before the effective date of this Ordinance.
Section 5. That City staff is hereby directed to develop recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Board and the City Council, within the succeeding six (6) month period, pertaining to the location, size, quantity, type and design of superstores within the City and to make specific recommendations regarding any proposed amendments to the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan, the Land Development Guidance System, the zoning ordinance and/or the subdivision ordinances of the City as they relate to such superstores.
Section 6. That the provisions of this Ordinance are temporary in nature and are intended to be replaced by subsequent legislative enactment. The temporary suspension of the processing of applications for large retail and merchandising establishments within the City as specified in this Ordinance shall terminate as of January 29, 1995.
Another community's preamble for a moratorium included the following reasons and purposes:
• To enable a full review and update of the Comprehensive Plan to ensure responsible development, both residentially and commercially.
• To ensure proper planning and zoning are adequately discussed and considered.
• To solve groundwater and high water table issues that plague our area before additional development is allowed.
• To ensure proper infrastructure, such as sewers and roads, are in place to enable planned projects.
• To ensure schools can meet projected demands on resources.
• To ensure emergency services, such as fire, police, and paramedic can meet projected demands.
• To alleviate any potential health and safety concerns related to proposed development.
• To ensure quality of life issues are satisfied and remain paramount to tax revenue generation.
• To preserve and protect the rural character of town.
• To ensure that environmental concerns are thoroughly examined to ensure that the integrity of the aquifer is maintained.
• To ensure that environmental concerns are thoroughly examined to ensure wetlands, and the wildlife they support, are preserved.
Here are another community's goals for enacting a temporary moratorium, including some of the specific items to be considered for long-range planning; having a plan of action strengthens the court's upholding of moratoria:
* A land use goal that calls for all commercial development to be predominately town-serving in character, not regional.
* A goal that requires that all commercial development be consistent in size with the surrounding built environment.
* A goal that seeks to prevent incompatible non-residential uses in residential neighborhoods.
* A goal that requires independent traffic studies, wetland studies, and economic impact studies of all major developments, including the net revenues and net expenses to the city or town, market need for the project, net impact on employment, etc.
* A goal that encourages the reuse of existing commercial sites and infill of existing areas already commercially zoned, and discourages commercial rezonings on "green field" undeveloped land.
* A goal that places a cap on the size of commercial buildings in all commercial zones.
* A goal that requires a special use permit for any commercial land in excess of 5 acres, which shall be classified as a "development of regional impact"
* A goal that requires developers to pay for the cost of independent expert studies, selected by the town, necessary to evaluate a land use proposal, including traffic impact, economic impact study, stormwater management, wetlands and water resources protection.
* A goal that requires all commercial projects that abut residentially zoned land not have an adverse impact on the residential valuations of surrounding residential properties.
* A goal providing for orderly growth by prohibiting any single commercial development that will incrementally increase the existing level of traffic on affected roadways by more than 5%.
* A goal that requires developers of projects larger than 5 acres to meet with abutters and prepare a report to the town of the neighbor's major objections to the proposal, and the developer's action plan to address each objection.
* A goal that says a top priority for the community is the preservation and
expansion of existing businesses, and discouraging commercial activity on the periphery of town.
* A goal that says new development shall not be permitted to lower the "level of service" along any roadways in town, but must meet or improve current traffic conditions on all roadways.
The purposes are to protect the community and give a community greater and more comprehensive means to do so; as now written, the zoning code is not required to look at many serious issues that may have as much or greater negative impact on the surrounding community as those few points that are involved; it is frightening to think that simply because a parcel was once zoned as "commercial" or "shopping mall" it must therefore accept ANY project that fits that broad category, even if of a size and impact never before considered by the authors of the plan or code. As the code is now written, the Town may find its hands tied, and forced to approve any application that meets a low threshold of compliance, even as new and different criteria are being raised by a new and different scale of development.
As the town of Wiscasset, Maine stated in April 2006:
"This moratorium only postpones new applications for retail sales stores over 40,000 square feet. (Larger than the existing Ames Supply or Shaw's Supermarket). This moratorium will give the Town of Wiscasset citizens 6 to 12 months to decide what they want where. The Comprehensive Plan needs to be finished before a Big Box Store asks for a building permit. The Rural District covers 80% of Wiscasset, yet there are very few ordinances adequately directing this large area. There are very few regulations in the Wiscasset Ordinance Performance Standards when a Big Box store decides they are here. This moratorium is only a "time out" to think, talk and decide. The Selectmen and Ordinance Review Committee should encourage reasonable retail development while preserving the character of our community. They should be given this opportunity to value the unique character of our town, consider appropriate planning tools, and study the issues. There is much appreciation for the 250+ people who went out of their way to sign the moratorium petition. This is not an issue of just the reality of taxes or jobs. It is an irreversible change that we all need to approach with wisdom."
As was stated by moratorium proponents in the town of Rotterdam:
"We are advocating for responsible development. We are not advocating a moratorium to stifle further development. We believe that adoption of a town-wide moratorium by the Town of Rotterdam, in effect “standing still” to carefully plan all zoning and development concerns town-wide, actually positions the Town to emerge from such better prepared and more likely to attract the type of development desired, while preserving quality of life for residents."
Lest anyone feel that such moratoria unfairly punishes property owners (who may be allowed appropriate relief during the period):
"Leaving an owner with a "reasonable economic use" of his property, as required by the courts, is quite different from guaranteeing someone the right to make the highest possible profit. Property owners sometimes assume they are entitled to maximum profits from their land. This is not the case. A homeowner living in a quiet neighborhood zoned for residential purposes is not legally entitled to sell his property for use as a convenience store, even though selling out to a convenience store chain might bring a much higher financial return... It is not uncommon for some people to argue, in effect, that government has an obligation to indulge their desire to profit from real estate speculation, even if such indulgence alters the entire community's way of life or vision for its future." From How Superstore Sprawl Can Harm Communities And What Citizens Can Do About It, by Constance E. Beaumont, published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, page 47.
The economic impact, for example, of a chain/formula store, particularly a big-box retailer, and most particularly a "supercenter" store, is not likely to be part of the standard rural zoning or planning review process, yet the impacts may be enough to "alter an entire community's way of life.":
"Chain retailers purchase fewer of their operating supplies and services from the local economy than do local establishments. This means that indirect effects - including the business sales, jobs, and income generated within other sectors of the regional economy to support retail store operations - will be less for chain stores than for locally-based establishments. All of the case studies we reviewed in which surveys were conducted of the spending done by locally-based firms compared to chain stores to support store operations showed that local firms spent a significantly higher proportion of their operating budgets within the local economy."
- From Assessment of the Direct, Indirect, and Induced Economic Effects of Chain Stores on the Regional Economy of Cape Cod, June 2005
"When residents of the Midcoast region (of Maine) spend $100 at a big box retailer, their purchase generates $14 in local spending by the retailer. That same $100 spent at a locally owned business generates $45 in local spending, or three times as much. Dollars spent at a local retailer support not only that store, but a variety of other local businesses, including local banks, accountants, printers and internet service providers."
- From The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Businesses vs. Chains, A Case Study in Midcoast Maine, September 2003
Since the growth in Wawarsing has been slow-to-moderate over the past decades, a single retail addition of over 100,000 sq. ft., including a variety of products and services already available to local residents through existing businesses, can be a severe shock to the "economic eco-system" and more than that balanced local economy can absorb at one time.
When confronted with an overwhelming "shock to the system," the town of Easton, Maryland decided that their comprehensive plan did "not address retail big box retailing issues in any detailed or comprehensive manner," and chose to give themselves enough time to "to evaluate and consider amendments to the Town's Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance and to enact such amendments.":
Currently, the Town of Easton is under unprecedented development pressure for commercial retail projects featuring "big box" retail uses...
Easton is confronted with three large scale commercial PUD developments which would add approxirnately 766,000 square feet of retail shopping space to Easton. All of these projects feature big box retail uses as integral features. These projects have raised concerns based upon possible adverse traffic, aesthetic and environmental effects as well as the possibility that the big box PUD's will erode or eliminate Easton's unique small town character and undermine a long series of efforts by the Town to support the Downtown as a retail area...
The 1997 Easton Comprehensive Plan does not address retail big box retailing issues in any detailed or comprehensive manner. The absence of clear direction in the Comprehensive Plan has made it difficult to review and evaluate these proposals in a manner which will lead consistent results and could cause the Town's policy on these issues being developed by a series of ad hoc decisions upon individual applications. These factors, combined with the number, size and scope of proposed projects in the Town, make it possible that projects could be reviewed and approved or disapproved in a manner not consistent with Easton's long-term needs and goals. A temporary moratorium would provide an opportunity for the citizens of Easton, acting through their elected and appointed officials, to evaluate and consider amendments to the Town's Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance and to enact such amendments.
The Council also finds that a temporary moratorium upon big box retail applications will leave owners of commercially-zoned properties with a variety of permitted, conditional and planned unit development uses available as development options which will be unaffected by the imposition of the proposed rnoratorium.
Whereas, the Town Council finds that adopting a temporary moratorium upon big box retail development in Easton will create a more stable environment during the moratorium period so that revisions to the Comprehensive Plan and/or the Zoning Ordinance can be formulated, considered and adopted in an orderly and thorough manner.
NOW, THEREFORE, the Town of Easton hereby ordains that:
Section 1. The Easton Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 28 of the Easton Town Code) is amended by the addition of Section 1000 thereto which shall read as follows:
Section 1000. Temporary Moratorium Upon Big Box Retail Applications.
(A) The Planning and Zoning Commission shall not accept, review or continue to review any applications for planned unit development or planned major retailing rezoning applications which incorporate in whole or in part proposals to construct or operate one or more "big box retail" uses, as that term is defined in this Ordinance.
(B) The Town Council shall not hold any public hearings upon any applications planned unit development rezoning applications which incorporate in whole or in part proposals to construct or operate one or more "big box retail" uses.
(C) The provisions of this Section 1000 shall apply to applications currently pending before the Town as of August 16, 1999 as well as applications filed after that date.
(D) The Planning and Zoning Commission shall institute such steps as it deems necessary to determine whether the Town of Easton Comprehensive Plan should be arnended to address the issues raised by big box retail and commercial development in and around Easton and to enact such plan amendments. In addition, the Planning and Zoning Commission shall submit one or more reports to the Town Council in writing on or before December 1, 1999, containing such recommendations as it deems appropriate for amendments to the Easton Zoning Ordinance or other land use regulations of the Town.
(E) Absent further action by the Town Council, the provisions of this Section shall lapse and be of no further effect as of three month after the effective date of Ordinance No.390.
Reviewing the Town of Wawarsing's Comprehensive Plan, it is clear that there is NO direct mention of a big-box retail supercenter, or any large retail development of this scope, or that consideration of its appearance was even contemplated.
Looking for ANY clues as to how the Plan MIGHT address this matter, one has to extrapolate and interpret scattered facts or opinions, and try to apply them to this issue; but since there is no specific mention OF big-box stores, it is possible to read into what IS written in several, conflicting ways. However, there is already enough material to SUGGEST that a big-box store's size and appearance, and the possible impact on existing economy, businesses, jobs, infrastructure, environment, traffic, noise, and overall "quality of life" issues, warrants a moratorium to prevent approval of a development beyond the current scope of its perception, and to allow the Plan to be updated to reflect more specific concerns and to suggest ways the zoning code can be made effective in addressing these concerns.
From the plan:
"Over the past decade, the Town of Wawarsing has seen slow-to-moderate growth relative to the county. Between 1990-2000, Ulster County’s population grew at a rate of 7.5%. Growth during the same period was at 4.3% in Wawarsing."
This suggests that a big-box superstore's impact on the economy, particularly existing businesses and available consumer spending capacity, would be more dramatic than if there were larger and more rapid growth, which might otherwise be able to absorb the overwhelmingly increased retail space. A slow growth rate suggests that sales from a relatively stable population base that are re-directed to a "one-stop shopping experience" would need to be siphoned primarily from existing local businesses in all the categories a supercenter deals in. The negative economic and other impacts of such a large, retail development should thus be taken into account, the same way that the ONLY specific mention of a particular development in the Plan suggests:
"By ensuring that any efforts to develop casinos in or near Wawarsing fully specify the impacts on the Town and provide means to fully compensate the Town for any negative impacts."
Hence, there IS a precedent for taking into account impacts, and holding the developer accountable; this just needs to be broadened to ANY large commercial development above a certain size.
Another non-specific part of the community survey asked the following:
"Things to be protected or preserved
Issue Number of Times Mentioned
Open Space/ Ridge/ Natural Areas 12
Local Businesses 5
Hamlet or Community 4
Local History 4
Things that need to be fixed or improved
Issue Number of Times Mentioned
Poor Appearance of Properties/Code Enforcement 11
The Local Economy 9
Local Services (Recreation, Youth, Public Transit) 4"
Although one can read into this a variety of things, two things are clear: big box retail stores are conspicuously absent as something desired, yet, at the same time, they are simply not addressed as something to be dealt with, which leaves a big hole in the way the Town WANTS to deal with them.
But seen from one point of view, one might ask how a specific retail big-box store (or the possibility of ONE attracting more and more!) protects open space and natural areas? IF local businesses are to be preserved and protected, how would an invasive outside-owned NON-local superstore that threatened them NOT be something to be avoided? How would a huge "dead architecture" box, with 24-hour noise, traffic, lights, crime, and sheer bulk help preserve and protect the look and feel of a hamlet or community? What in our history can prepare us for such a rapid and large impact? How would the unique and rural nature of Wawarsing be change irrevocably by a cookie-cutter big box that looks like every other cookie-cutter big box everywhere else?
Although a new big-box store may be more "kempt" than an aging and near empty mall (which COULD always be refurbished!), there are many who feel its "sterile" blandness is an affront to the eyes; now that that section of Rte. 209 is part of the Scenic Byway, do we really want people to HAVE to see this hulking box as they otherwise take in the beauty of the Shawangunks? Even the large prison complex across the way has a unique architectural style, which some have compared to a Rhine castle, and is part of what makes our area uniquely what it is.
IF the local economy needs improvement, does a development that ELIMINATES three jobs for each two provided, that sends more money OUT of the community than it brings in, that costs more in services and infrastructure than it returns in taxes, that reduces the overall average income, drives long-time local businesses into closing (offering FEWER ultimate shopping choices rather than more), and leads to more sprawl and less sense of community, REALLY improve things?
IF services and infrastructure cost MORE than tax revenue (and sales taxes don't go to the town anyway), and if the lost tax revenues from closed businesses have to be factored in, and the loss in property values reduces the tax base, and if businesses don't want to move into the area because they know they can't compete with a predatory superstore, how will local services be maintained, much less improved?
Since "Highly rated services included emergency services, utilities and County and Town road maintenance," how will increased traffic on 209 and feeder roads affect emergency response and road maintenance? How will the Napanoch water and sewer system handle this very large user?
Since "preservation of a 'clean and green environment,'" is important, how will big box stores, notorious for creating water run-off problems (which includes more pollutants), more traffic, more noise, more lights, etc. accomplish that goal?
Though a "strong desires for more local shopping opportunities" MIGHT suggest the desire for such a store, first, there are smaller, less destructive alternatives to ONE BIG supercenter. Second, studies show that supercenters, by decimating existing local businesses, REDUCE local shopping opportunities! Many times, all that remains IS the one big box, and then they have a near monopoly on what IS available, and what the prices will be. This is why HUNDREDS of communities have resisted big-box stores, and why those who didn't are now regretting it. WE should take the needed time to review the available data and decide IF we have the protection to turn down projects that could be more negative than positive in ways our current Plan and Code don't account for.
"Regulations regarding historic preservation, commercial site design, protection of ridgeline character and all-terrain vehicle use received favor with citizens."
Although a big box in the Napanoch Mall won't affect the "ridgeline" itself, it will be hard to ignore! But the concern for regulations regarding commercial site design MUST be the impetus to STRENGTHEN those regulations! In a series of pictures rated most favorable and least favorable, natural settings and classic single-family residences scored best, while parking lots and sterile commercial structures scored worst. Thus, the current Plan would seem to lean AWAY from big box architecture and multi-acre parking lots, except without the specificity that would add teeth to that desire.
"People are concerned about the community's appearance. They want to protect natural resources and rebuild the Town's economic base.
The public outreach for this plan has indicated strong community sentiment to improve community appearance, protect resources (both natural and manmade) and build a better local economy."
VERY few people LIKE the appearance of "dead architecture" big boxes! Their absence is often cited as what is NICE about the local views! Why look like "anywhere" and "everywhere"? People have LEFT sprawl-land to ENJOY what rural, historic, scenic towns offer instead! Why destroy what makes us attractive? Why encourage development that not only doesn't protect natural resources, but threatens them? Why encourage development that doesn't build the community's economic base, but, rather, undermines and eviscerates it? You can't build a "better local economy" by decimating the stable one you have, and encouraging invasion by non-local, megacorporate goliaths with NO commitment to or concern for the community it feeds off of, while failing to give back to the community near what it sends to its home office far away.
"By developing a consistent approach to signage; mixed-used development consistent with traditional hamlet activities such that stores and offices can be located on the ground floor of buildings with apartments overhead."
Clearly, a superstore or forumla/chain has its own "approach to signage" that rarely cares about local standards. A big box has NOTHING in common with "mixed-used development consistent with traditional hamlet activities." A big box is SO out of "consistency" with the rest of Napanoch that it would overwhelm and loom over the hamlet like a cinder block on a chessboard!
"Create Hamlet design guidelines for Kerhonkson and Napanoch. As illustrated in Figure VII-2, each of these hamlets has a unique settlement pattern and distinct types of architecture. By creating design guidelines for each hamlet, the Town can ensure that future development blends into the existing character of the hamlets and that such development strengthens the identity of each hamlet."
Can anyone doubt that a big box store the size of two to three football fields does NOT fit into Napanoch's "unique settlement pattern" or is even remotely compatible with its "distinct types of architecture"? HOW in any remote way does a big box store "blend into the existing character" of Napanoch and "strengthen the identity" of Napanoch? THIS alone should make the placement of a big box store in Napanoch contrary to the Plan, even as it currently exists! But only by increasing the specificity to MENTION and reject such out-of-place developments, and to make the Code answerable to these specific concerns, can the Town protect itself fully, and a moratorium gives the Town the time to address these deficiencies.
"Create Commercial Development guidelines including standards for landscaping, lighting and signage. In addition to establishing hamlet guidelines, the Town should also seek to ensure that development that occurs along its major thoroughfares (especially routes 209 and 52) is attractive in appearance and conducive to supporting tourism and attracting other businesses to invest in the Town. If appropriate, architectural guidelines or standards should be considered as part of this process."
Most of the concerns in this paragraph have already been addressed: the lighting and signage of typical big box stores is overwhelming and garish, and is usually based on THEIR desires, not the community's. Very few would call the appearance of a big box attractive, or something that tourists would travel to see! Again, what small business would want to invest in an area that has already decimated the existing downtown businesses, and would be a direct threat to their own success? However, to simply limit the planning process to "architectural guidelines" without addressing the more critical concerns of lost businesses, lost jobs, and economic impact would be to leave the Town defenseless against a potential threat to its well-being.
"Well-designed standards for landscaping and site development can ensure that new businesses blend into the community and project the sense of quality that is important to continued prosperity for the Town of Wawarsing.
By preserving and enhancing the natural beauty and man-made environment, thus assuring the maintenance and increase of property values and continued resort activity."
HOW does a 100,000 to 200,000 sq ft big box supercenter "blend" into the community, visually or economically? It stands out like a sore thumb and squashes the competition without mercy. What "quality" sense is "projected" by a sterile box of "dead architecture" that practically screams "CHEAP!"? How is local prosperity secured when the majority of the money that goes INTO the store is immediately suctioned away from the community and sent to a far off head office? The record of devastation nationwide, as cited elsewhere, is enough reason to seriously question whether any such bargain, enticing as the developers may make it sound, is really a bargain at all. That residential property values routinely DROP in the immediate and surrounding area of a big box, that "same-as-everywhere-else" sprawl is poison to any "destination resort" are more reasons to infer that the Plan, even as currently written, would find the results of a big box store counter-productive and contrary to the intent of the Plan's vision. What is now needed is to flesh out these concerns with specific reference to retail development beyond a size that is consistent with the vision for the Town and the goals the Plan espouses.
One problem is that, because of the lack of specificity, even though I've enumerated MANY examples from the Plan that imply an aversion to big box sprawl, there are at least two points that COULD be used by a big box developer to suggest that such development is welcome. My take, however, is that the reasonable contemplation of development consistent with existing or historical development, and the absence of any comprehension in this survey or Plan of something of the scale and magnitude of a big box, or the actual impact as shown from hundreds of actual examples, has left these comments too vague and without grounding in actual effects. Hence, I would urge that they be reviewed during the moratorium and fleshed out to take into account developments beyond the normal scope of consideration, once the impacts are fully addressed.
"They generally favored giving the benefit of the doubt on regulations to protection of private property rights over managing impacts of development. Development of the commercial tax base, maintenance of large minimum lot sizes and creation of good jobs locally were identified as priorities.
Promote the hamlets of Napanoch and Kerhonkson as centers of commercial activity. If new development is located in or near existing centers, it reduces the traffic associated with that development in several ways. First, by locating commercial development within walking distance of residential areas, it enables both customers and workers to avoid using their cars to get to the business. Second, by locating new business development near existing businesses, customers, workers and/or suppliers can sometimes use one trip to serve several purposes. This too reduces demand on the local roadway."
Clearly, MOST of the employees and visitors to a supercenter will NOT be walking there! Traffic in and around Napanoch will increase to unknown levels, but surely it won't be "reduced" just because it is concentrated in one location! The whole point OF a supercenter is to draw traffic from at least a 10-mile radius, or else it won't generate enough business to pay for itself; unfortunately, THIS draws sales activity AWAY from existing businesses, and reduces traffic to the existing commercial centers, most notably downtown Ellenville, particularly as a supercenter (with grocery, hair salon, nail salon, optician, auto center, bank, gas station, etc.) allows "one trip to serve several purposes" which, unfortunately for existing local businesses, is usually enough to severely impact them, often to the point of closing. Thus, what reads well on a smaller level of development, becomes, in the presence of a superstore, a cruel joke and bitter irony. Hence, this too should be revisited to incorporate the distinction.
According to the NY Department of State, the following
GUIDELINES TO DRAFTING A MORATORIUM LAW
should be considered as offering the strongest possible case.
Because I am not a lawyer, and not as familiar with the town's zoning as the village's, I would ask that the town attorney fill in the technical blanks and make it conform to local formatting, while NOT weakening the essential structure or terms.
P Adopt the moratorium in the form of a local
P Where zoning already exists, treat the
moratorium as an amendment to zoning,
following the applicable procedures.
P Clearly define the activity affected and the
manner in which it is affected.
P Where a moratorium supersedes provisions
of the Town Law or Village Law, adopt it by
local law, using Municipal Home Rule Law
P A valid basis for the moratorium should be
set forth in a good written record.
P Specify the time period that the moratorium
will be in effect.
P Provide a mechanism that allows affected
landowners to apply for relief from the
LOCAL LAW NO.____ (2007) OF THE COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF WAWARSING
ESTABLISHING A TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF THE ACCEPTANCE, PROCESSING, REVIEW, AND APPROVAL OF APPLICATIONS FOR RETAIL DEVELOPMENTS GREATER THAN 50,000 SQ.FT. WITHIN THE TOWN FOR A PERIOD OF SIX MONTHS, EXTENDABLE TO ONE YEAR.
As the Town of Wawarsing is facing increasing residential and commercial development pressures, the Town Council deems it prudent to enact a temporary moratorium to allow the community time to establish a more comprehensive vision and direction for the future that includes large-size retail developments (also known as "big box stores"), specifically, and to the extent previously overlooked. To achieve that vision, the Town has decided to take a comprehensive look at issues related to its continued growth and development, but in a context that includes addressing developments of unprecedented magnitude within the Town.
The Town's primary concerns, looking forward, include ensuring the community retains its rural, small-town character, remains a great place to live, and that the area's natural resources, open spaces, and agricultural land are protected. Further, that various economic and community impacts have not previously been addressed by such developments, they should be considered in evaluating potential projects that exceed a certain size.
Due to the impending growth pressures facing the Town of Wawarsing, it is prudent for the Town to enact a temporary moratorium, review and update the Comprehensive Plan, and consider amendments to the Town's zoning regulations. It is in the public's interest for the Town to take a hard look at the potential growth pressures and determine how best to address the situation in a fair an equitable manner.
The Town of Wawarsing aspires to preserve its working agricultural landscapes, natural resources, and particular quality of life as it continues to accommodate residential and commercial growth. The community has expressed a desire to maintain the small town and rural qualities still present throughout much of the Town. As the area continues to attract new commercial growth and new residents, the Town seeks to manage this growth in a manner that maintains the best of the Town of Wawarsing's character for this and future generations. Overall, development in this area should be sensitive to the scale and context of the community, its historical characteristics, and the impacts on the greater economy and existing businesses and community factors.
Because the current Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Regulations do not specifically address the unique impacts of large, "big-box stores," the Town considers itself to be unprepared to deal with proposed projects of this scale to the extent necessary and prudent for the health, safety, and welfare of its community members. Development moratoria allow communities to place a temporary halt on new development so that local officials can examine the impact of proposed development and put measures in place to manage it. Moratoria enable local planning departments to consider issues often associated with big-box sprawl development, such as increased traffic, loss of community character, and economic displacement. The moratorium is used to consider how these and other issues might affect the community and what measures should be adopted to protect the public's interest.
For example, the SEQR Handbook advises that "A town planning board reviewing a big box development should consider the impact of the development on the community character of a neighboring village that might suffer business displacement as a result of the approval of the big box development." Without the specific wording in the Comprehensive Plan or Zoning Regulations to require an economic and community impact study, and what shall trigger that study (e.g., a GLA greater than 20,000 sq.ft.), and who shall do the study (e.g., an independent consultant chosen by the town) and who shall pay for it (e.g., the developer/applicant), the general "suggestion" to consider the impact may be challenged or ignored.
Further, it may be prudent to review whether ANY retail development over a certain size (typically, 50,000 sq.ft.) is inherently too large to be compatible within the environmental and economic context of the Town, and should either be rejected outright, or made to meet stricter standards and greater review criteria, or require more approvals from more boards, including the Village of Ellenville, neighboring towns, or the county. Even the limiting of any chain or formula stores beyond a certain quota may be an option, if the Town review determines that not to limit them would have serious negative effects on the character of the Town and economic impact on existing local businesses.
WHEREAS, the Town of Wawarsing ("the Town"), as a home rule municipality, has broad constitutional and statutory powers to regulate the use of land within its limits; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to said authority, and the provisions of ___________, the Town has adopted certain policies, plans, ordinances and resolutions pertaining to the development of property within the Town, including the Town's Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Regulations; and
WHEREAS, the Goals and Objectives element of the Town's Comprehensive Plan directs the Town to: (1) develop and maintain a land use plan which will indicate preferred locations for the various types of economic activities within the Town; (2) protect the character of new and existing residential neighborhoods against intrusive and disruptive surrounding development; (3) ensure that future development in the Town will be accomplished so as to create the least degradation of the environment; and (4) promote better integration of land development and transportation facilities; and
WHEREAS, the Town may receive applications and/or informal proposals for various retail "superstores" to be located within the Town, which superstores present unique land use planning concerns by reason of the bulk, size, and scale of such stores, especially with regard to the aesthetic, transportation, environmental, and economic impacts of the same; and
WHEREAS, considerable study is needed to determine the appropriateness and suitability of such uses and the kinds of criteria that should be adopted to analyze the impacts of same, as well as the kind of infrastructure requirements that may be necessary to accommodate such uses if allowed.
WHEREAS, the 2006 Wawarsing Comprehensive Plan does not address retail big box retailing issues in any detailed or comprehensive manner, the absence of clear direction in the Comprehensive Plan would make it difficult to review and evaluate these proposals in a manner which will lead consistent results, and could cause the Town's policy on these issues being developed by a series of ad hoc decisions upon individual applications. These factors, combined with an unknown number, size, and scope of potential projects in the Town, make it possible that projects could be reviewed and approved or disapproved in a manner not consistent with Wawarsings's long-term needs and goals. A temporary moratorium would provide an opportunity for the citizens of Wawarsing, acting through their elected and appointed officials, to evaluate and consider amendments to the Town's Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Regulations and to enact such amendments.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF WAWARSING as follows:
Section 1. That the Council of the Town of Wawarsing hereby makes the following findings of fact:
(a) That the Town has recently been made aware that potential development proposals for large, general, and special merchandise stores, sometimes known as "superstores," could be submitted absent any specific references to their unique nature in either the Comprehensive Plan or Zoning regulations.
(b) That the bulk, size, and scale of such superstores present unusual land use concerns for the Town, especially with regard to the aesthetic, environmental, transportation, and economic impacts of such uses.
(c) That considerable study is needed in order to determine the appropriateness for such land uses, the kind of design criteria which should be used to mitigate the visual impacts of the same, and the kind of infrastructure requirements which should be imposed to offset the parking and traffic impacts of such developments, or indeed, whether such projects are inherently contrary to the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan, or otherwise require special consideration and review.
(d) That the introduction of superstores, in the absence of appropriate regulatory guidelines and impact criteria, may have an irreversible negative impact upon the Town, the Village of Ellenville, surrounding towns, and Ulster County.
(e) That the Town has not heretofore studied the impacts of superstores, nor has it established criteria to ensure that such stores can be developed in harmony with the Town's Comprehensive Plan, and, particularly, the Goals and Objectives element thereof.
(f) That it is necessary in the public interest to delay, for a reasonable period of time, the acceptance, processing, review, and approval of any applications for such stores, or any retail stores with GLA greater than 50,000 sq.ft., to ensure that the design, development, location, or suitability of the same are consistent with the long-term planning objectives of the Town.
(g) That a time period of six-months, extendable by simple resolution to one year, shall be established for this purpose, retroactive upon passage to January 1, 2007.
(h) That nothing shall preclude the Town from beginning to study the relevant impacts or consider appropriate criteria, or convene the Comprehensive Plan panel, or seek out expert advice on this matter, at any time, independent of an enacted moratorium.
(h) That, during the above mentioned period of time, the Town should take all necessary steps to enable a full review and update of the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code to ensure responsible development, both residentially and commercially, including the following considerations, particularly in regard to large, big-box retail developments:
• To ensure proper planning and zoning are adequately discussed and considered.
• To resolve groundwater, run-off, and water supply issues before large retail development is allowed.
• To determine if proper infrastructure, such as sewers and roads, are in place to allow for planned projects.
• To ensure schools can meet projected demands on resources, pedestrian and bus safety.
• To ensure emergency services, such as fire, police, hospital, and first aid/paramedics can meet projected demands.
• To consider any potential health and safety concerns related to proposed development.
• To ensure quality of life issues are satisfied and remain paramount to tax revenue generation.
• To preserve and protect the rural character of town.
• To ensure that environmental concerns are thoroughly examined to ensure that the integrity of the ecology is maintained.
• To ensure that economic and community impacts to the Town, Village of Ellenville, surrounding towns, and Ulster County are thoroughly examined, with particular emphasis on potential loss of existing jobs or businesses, property value decline, "leakage" of community money to non-local owners, effects on tourism and potential new residents, and potential increase of traffic, noise, light pollution, crime.
Section 2. That, as of the effective date of this Local Law, no Overall Development Plans, preliminary development applications, applications for site plan review, or building permits for superstores within the Town will be accepted, processed, reviewed, or approved by Town staff or reviewed by the Town's Planning and Zoning Boards.
Section 3. That, for the purposes of this Local Law, "superstore" shall mean any building, or combination of buildings, intended to be used principally for the purpose of retail sales and marketing, which exceed(s) fifty thousand (50,000) square feet in size, and for which a single certificate of occupancy would be issued under Section ______ of the Town Code.
Section 4. That the provisions of the Local Law shall not affect the processing of applications or the issuance of building permits for uses permitted under planned unit developments or site plan reviews that have received preliminary or final approval by the Town on or before the effective retroactive date of this Local Law.
Section 5. That Town staff are hereby directed to develop recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Boards and the Town Council, within the succeeding six (6) month period, pertaining to the potential impacts of superstores within the Town, based upon historical and contemporary examples in similar communities, and to make specific recommendations regarding any proposed amendments to the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Regulations as they may relate to such superstores.
Section 6. That regular public meetings shall be held, or sufficient time within regularly scheduled Town meetings made available, to allow adequate public input on these matters.
Section 7. That the Planning and Zoning Boards and Comprehensive Plan panel shall institute such steps as it deems necessary to determine whether and how the Town of Wawarsing Comprehensive Plan should be amended to address the issues raised by big box retail and commercial development in and around Wawarsing and to enact such plan amendments. In addition, the Planning and Zoning Boards shall submit one or more reports to the Town Council in writing on or before June 30, 2007, containing such recommendations as it deems appropriate for amendments to the Wawarsing Zoning Code or other land use regulations of the Town.
Section 8. That the provisions of this Local Law are temporary in nature, subject to a six (6) month extension, and are intended to be replaced by subsequent legislative enactment. The temporary suspension of the processing of applications for large retail and merchandising establishments within the Town as specified in this Local shall terminate as of June 30, 2007, unless extended to December 31, 2007. Absent further action by the Town Council, the provisions of this Section shall lapse and be of no further effect as of six (6) months after the effective date, unless extended for an additional six (6) months at which time it shall lapse.
Steven Krulick / SK@Krulick.Com
Ellenville NY / 12428-130727 / Earth
845-647-2868 / http://Krulick.Com