The number of communities that prohibit large retail stores continues to grow. (A visual depiction and overview of various retail store sizes).
In order "to protect residents and visitors from the perils of regional, large format, mega-style commercial development," the town of Nags Head, North Carolina banned stores larger than 50,000 square feet in July. Among the perils cited in the new ordinance were increased traffic congestion, reduced air quality, increased noise, and loss of community character and identity.
The Town Commission unanimously supported the ordinance, although some commissioners had favored a lower limit of 20,000 square feet. Mayor George Farah told the newspaper that big-box stores "suck the economy right out of communities." Nags Head has no big box stores.
The city of Santa Fe, New Mexico also adopted a retail size cap last month. The ordinance limits retail stores throughout the city to no more than 150,000 square feet, a threshold that will keep out Wal-Mart’s 200,000 square foot "supercenters," but still allow many big box retailers, such as Office Max and Home Depot, to build. Several council members unsuccessfully pressed for a lower threshold. Santa Fe is already home to a Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, and Target.
In addition to the cap, the ordinance sets design standards for stores over 30,000 square feet. It also requires that developments with a single tenant larger than 75,000 square feet set aside at least 25 percent of their total retail space for stores smaller than 30,000 square feet.
San Luis Obispo, California is also moving towards a size limit on retail development. In July, the Planning Commission voted 4-2 to prohibit stores larger than 110,000 square feet. The ordinance must be approved by the City Council before becoming law. In addition to limiting retail size, the ordinance would require that proposals for stores larger than 60,000 square feet obtain a special use permit. Approval would hinge on whether the developer can demonstrate that the store 1) will serve the community, 2) needs to be that large due to the type of business, 3) doesn’t conflict with the scale of surrounding uses, and 4) adheres to new design standards.
In Arizona, the Coconino County Planning & Zoning Commission recently voted to bar stores over 80,000 square feet and require a conditional use permit for those over 25,000 square feet. The ordinance now goes to the County Board of Supervisors for final approval. Flagstaff, the largest city within Coconino County, is also examining the impact of big box retail stores.