Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Protest at the Wrong Time

Story in this morning's Trib about a petition signed by over 1,700 residents in Holladay to keep a Walgreen's out of the Village Center redevelopment area. Seems that there are already three other pharmacy/drug stores near the location, and residents object to another, especially one that is part of a national chain.

I haven't made myself completely familiar with the details of the proposal, but it sounds like it is one that is allowed by existing city ordinance, and thus something that residents really can do very little about at this point (help me out here, Paul).

The city hasn't made it easy for the applicant, making them go through, among other things, an extensive design review process. But, bottom line, it sounds like a use that is allowed by city ordinance and one that the applicant has properly applied for and gone through the process.

Now the residents want to stop it, and have a huge petition to make their view known. Unfortunately, citizens often don't understand that the time to protest was when the city was originally considering adopting the ordinances that would have allowed for such use in the first place. If the city were to turn the application down now on the basis that residents simply don't want it, there would be more than enough grounds for the applicant to sue and either be granted the use or be granted compensation. Residents simply don't seem to understand this, and think that a petition is valid grounds to overturn existing legal rights of others.

This situation reminds me a lot of the Wal-Mart in Centerville battle, which was the same type of situation. Because of the extensive resident opposition, the city review and approval process became very long and drawn out, but the applicant met all the hurdles thrown in its path, and had a legal right to proceed, much to the dismay (and misunderstanding) of many of the residents.

Making such distinctions more apparent to citizens and to elected officials is something that planners and staff must do a better job of.


At 5:58 AM, Blogger ARCritic said...

So how do you go about changing the zoning like you suggest,"when the city was originally considering the ordinances that would have allowed for such use in the first place?"

While I don't know about this specific instance it seems that if there are currently a couple of other drug stores in the area, then the area was zoned for commercial that included drug stores.

So what do you do? Once you have 2 drug stores in an area and decide that is enough go back an change the zoning ordinance to not allow drug stores in that area, so no more can be built?

This seems like the old adage of real estate/business. Location, location, location.

When you start looking for a place to build a drug store 2 obvious places pop up real fast, 1) in an underserved area, 2) in a highly served area where you can out compete the competition.

The fact that national chains are able to out compete local owners because of volume buying economies, is an ecomonic fact. If those 1,700 people will commit to not ever shop at Walgreen's and vigorously and continuously campiagn against and boycott Walgreens (and the other national chains) then the national chains will go broke and this won't be a problem. But of course, most people don't make economic decisions based on many factors other than price.

At 6:56 AM, Blogger Wilf said...

Right you are, arcritic. Early in my planning career, I found it interesting how people would sometimes try to use zoning to limit competition. Didn't think it was right then, still don't. But there's no question that the whole culture of national chain stores changes what we think of our local commercial areas, with very few home-grown "mom-and-pop" operations left.

Is this a proper area for land use regulations to address? Probably not. I do know that it is entirely inappropriate (not to mention illegal!) for residents to try and stop a business from locating in an area that is zoned to allow for it.

Change the ordinances if you must, but think about how it limits competition.


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