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2005-04-03
Philadelphia, PA. Lawmakers Seek Limits to "Predatory Superstores."

Three city council members in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania introduced a new ordinance on St. Patricks' Day that is sure to turn retailers like Wal-Mart green. Bill # 050216, entitled "Predatory Superstores," would amend the Philadelphia Code to prohibit the development and construction of Predatory Superstores, and to prohibit zoning variances which would endanger the economic health and vitality of the surrounding community. The premise of the proposed ordinance is that "large individual retail stores in excess of 90,000 s.f. present unique challenges for and demands upon local governments...require a significantly higher commitment of police, fire and public safety resources in comparison to smaller neighborhood stores, have a demonstrable and identifiable negative and anti-competitive impact on many business enterprises and establishments, establish undesirable conditions which foster potential traffic congestion and pollution that tend to strain local streets and highways and contaminate air and water supplies, must be measurably capable of generating significant municipal revenue from mercantile taxes, property taxes and other public funding sources to offset the added cost and burdens of their existence upon local government, are regional in nature and attract customers and vendors from a broad, non-local region in contravention of the salutary goal of providing a supply of multiple convenience retail establishments and opportunities to seve local neighborhoods, are neither pedestrian nor mass transit oriented and instead encourage the unnecessary use of individual personal vehicles and attendant parking, pollution issues along with waste of scarce natural resources.." The ordinance defines "predatory superstore" as one that "contains more than 180,000 s.f. of gross buildable area at full build out, or contains more than 90,000 s.f. and less than 180,000 s.f. of gross leasable area at full build out where in excess of 10% of such a proposed facility's total square footage is to be devoted to or dedicated to the sale of nontaxable food merchandise and/or cosmetics, soaps, non-prescription drugs and toiletries or where, based upon credible marketing studies prepared on behalf of the proposed facility, in excess of 10% of the proposed facility's anticipated gross sales revenues will be from nontaxable food merchandise and/or cosmetics, soaps, non-prescription drugs and toiletries." The proposed ordinance requires that in calculating the size of the store, that "the square footage of adjacent stores or facilities shall be aggregated together to determine the gross buildable area of the Predatory superstore and the anticipated gross sales revenue of adjacent stores or facilities shall be aggregated together to determine the proposed Predatory superstore's anticipated gross sales revenues if the adjacent stores or facilities share any of the following: 1. check stands, or 2 common management, or 3) a common ownership interest or control group (by way of corporate structures and/or individual shareholders, partners, proprietors or any combination of the same, or 4) warehouise and/or distribution facilities." This last section is designed to prevent a company from breaking its large stores down into smaller stores all owned by the same company. The ordinance then goes on to prohibit in all classes of zoning district in Philadelphia the "predatory superstore." The ordinance also requires that any variance being considered "will not substantially lower the rate of employment, the level of wages and/or health care benefits, the amount of revenue generated by wage and property taxes or otherwise endanger the economic health and vitality of the surround community." If an existing predatory superstore asked for a variance, the Zoning Board of Adjustment would be empowered to require the applicant to present "a verified statement of economic impact" that includes "an accurate and academically sound data-based analysis of the expected economic impact on business establishments that are engaged in the sale or the same or similar products in the same market area as the proposed Predatory superstore." The applicant would also have to produce an "analysis on employment diminution resulting from the operations of the proposed predatory superstore, detailing the nature and quality of job destruction and dislocation, including the relative pay and benefit scales with respect to the grade and/or classifications of workers so dislocated." Such impact study would also have to examine "the tax impact of the proposed Predatory superstore...including, but not limited to, the effect on wage and property tax revenues for the period of 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years subsequent to the commencement of the Predatory superstore's business activities." The applicant for a superstore would have to demonstrate that their proposed store "will not substantially lower the rate of employment, the level of wages and/or health care benefits, the amount of revenue generated by wage and property taxes or otherwise endanger the economic health and vitality of the surrounding community." The ordinance also carries fines for stores that increase their square footage devoted to nontaxable goods in excess of the limits established in the code.

What you can do: For a copy of this sweeping proposed ordinance, contact info@sprawl-busters.com. One amendment to this ordinance is to require that all economic impact studies be underwritten by the applicant, but performed by an independent party hired by the city of Philadelphia. This ordinance is another example of the pressure being put on municipal and state officials to regulate and limit the size of superstores and their contents. Sprawl-Busters prefers ordinances that require size caps, and impact studies.










 
 
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