Preserving Small Towns
by Bill Lofquist

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Published by Clarion Publications, Geneseo, NY

What to do about empty Big Boxes (April 20, 2006)

Many communities have had to deal with the problem of empty Big Boxes. Here is a sample ordinance that shows how one community in Georgia dealt with it:

WHEREAS, The City of Peachtree was planned, designed, and built on the concept that there would be a few separate, distinct village centers and neighborhood centers with areas of retail, other commercial, and office uses separated by and surrounded by residential areas; and that the only location in the City where a significant concentration of a) large-scale, regional retail, b) other commercial, and c) office uses would occur was in close proximity to the intersection of Highways 54 and 74 (the "Plan");
WHEREAS, Peachtree City has strived to maintain this Plan throughout its developmental history and has revised the Plan only after thoughtful consideration;
WHEREAS, many residents moved to Peachtree City because of the Plan and because the town appears different from many other suburban areas and these residents have invested money and time on their homes in reliance on the Plan;
WHEREAS, the current trend in retail shopping seems to be the concentration of shops into single, large stores with sizes far exceeding 100,000 square feet;
WHEREAS, it appears the intent of retailers in building such larger stores is the concentration of shoppers into fewer stores;
WHEREAS, this concentration of shoppers increases the demands on the local infrastructure by increasing the number of vehicles required to travel to fewer, and some-times farther-away, stores; increasing the demands on the surrounding roads; increasing the demands on the surrounding utility lines; increasing the demands on the surrounding fire stations; and increasing the demands on surrounding storm water structures; WHEREAS, the concentration of retail space into larger and fewer stores increases the negative impact on the surrounding areas and shopping centers should these retailers vacate their larger stores;
WHEREAS, the concentration of larger retail stores increases the rate of crime in these areas and, thus, the need for greater police protection; WHEREAS, the concentration of retail areas increases traffic and the incidents of what is now commonly known as "road rage";
WHEREAS, the increasing size of retail stores increases the need for more vehicle parking and, thus, increases the need for more landscaping and architectural controls to keep the scale of development consistent with the existing commercial and residential mix and appearance of the town; and
WHEREAS, the increased size of retail stores poses an even greater threat to the economic viability of an area and criminal activity in an area if such retail stores remain vacant for an appreciable period of time; and also any and all vacant buildings, stores, and homes pose a threat for increased criminal activity if such vacant buildings, stores, and homes are not properly maintained and secured
NOW, THEREFORE, in order to address the problems created by the increasing size of retail stores and to address the problems created by vacant buildings, stores, and houses and to accommodate, where practicable, the stated desires of the owners of such retail stores to develop large facilities, the City Council of Peachtree City adopt the following ordinance: (in part). “Any tenant that occupies more than 10,000 square feet shall provide the City Attorney with a copy of the rental agreement between the tenant and its landlord which shall contain a contract provision prohibiting the tenant from voluntarily vacating such premises or otherwise ceasing to conduct its retail business on such premises while simultaneously preventing the landlord, by continuing to pay rent or otherwise, from leasing the premises to another person or company who will operate a permitted business on the premises.”

Wouldn't it be nice if we had such an ordinance in Geneseo right now?

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