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2004-08-12
Mission, KS. Planners OK Innovative Cap on Floor Size

The Planning Commission in Mission, Kansas has come up with some innovative zoning regulations for one corridor in the city that will help the community fit developers into their plans, rather than the reverse. The new development rules will be voted on by the City Council on August 25th. According to the Kansas City Star, the regulations could require Wal-Mart to change its thinking regarding plans to locate at the Mission Center Mall. The regulations being recommended to the City Council require that 1) Stores larger than 50,000 s.f. would have to be two stories. 2) Stores larger than 100,000 s.f. would have to have three floors. 3) 75% of parking would have to be in a garage or on the street. 4) Parking would also be placed to the rear or side of the building and would have to be screened by at least a four foot masonry wall or landscaping. 5) The city would be able to place stipulations on a superstore, regulating traffic and landscaping and limiting signage and hours of operation. 6) At least 20% of a big-box store site would have to be landscaped for a pocket park or plaza. 7) Big-box stores would have to apply for a special use permit, which allows the city to add conditions, including regulations on traffic, landscaping and erosion control, as well as limitations on signage and hours of operation. "There's no way to meet the criteria if you're a larger store," one mall developer complained. But city officials properly point out that the new regulations would not prevent any retailer from setting up shop in Mission -- they would just force the retailer to be more creative, and use space more efficiently. There are several examples of multi-level chain stores conforming to similar guidelines, including a multi-level Target in Minneapolis, the new Home Depot in Manhattan, the Wal-Mart in Honolulu, etc. Wal-Mart has applied in Mission to shut down its store in nearby Roeland Park,and build a supercenter where the old Mission Center mall exists. The new rules would apply only along the Johnson Drive corridor in Mission, and would not impact existing superstores in Mission like the Target. City officials said developers should build up, not out, because Mission is a landlocked city. "We have to focus on the more efficient uses of the land," the city's community development planner said. "The only way we can have any growth is to focus on increasing the height to any development." He pointed out that some multi-level superstores feature extra-wide escalators (called vermaports) to carry customers with their shopping carts from floor to floor. "It certainly can be done," he said. The new rules in Mission would allow residents living within 200 feet of the property to submit a protest petition that would increase the number of council votes needed for approval.

What you can do: One Roeland Park resident at the Planning Commission hearing testified that she lives two doors down from the existing Wal-Mart in her town, and said there's always litter, traffic and sometimes security problems in her neighborhood. "I really encourage you guys to do what you can to protect your area," she said. Mission's new rules did not suddenly spring out of nowhere. Plans to change the zoning codes began a few years ago with a study of the downtown area which recommended creating a downtown which was more pedestrian-friendly. The Mission Planner's vision of the Johnson Drive corridor are truly bold and exciting, compared to the standard roadside attractions being produced by most retail developers today. It is greed and greed alone which has dictated the standard format for big box stores today. They inefficiently use land, they destroy surrounding businesses and reduce the residential value of land, and they can cost communities more than they generate in taxes. Mission is on the right mission, and should stick by its plans -- despite the whining of developers, who will see their one-size-fits-all vision until local officials put down their (square) foot.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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