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2000-08-10
Mountain View, CA. Home Depot Smacks of Bad Faith

Home Depot just didn't have the answers to please local officials at a recent meeting of the Mountain View, CA Environmental Planning Commission. Home Depot wants to locate on the former site of the retail "Emporium." Commissioners asked Home Depot to present them with a 'good design' for a store, according to the Mountain View Voice, but Home Depot "brought no answers." On the design issue, Home Depot said: "What we decided after looking at a number of our stores is that we don't have a store righit now that has the same kind of elements that you're going to approve." Most of the speakers who testified were against Home Depot, many of them from the group Neighborhoods For A Landmakr/Gateway Quality Project, a community group that is fighting Home Depot and supporting a "landmark" style building for taheir community. Residents complained about traffic and public safety concerns. One resident said: "A nice building and pleasant landscape can not mitigate the fact that all big box retailers, when in operation, are noisy, unattractive, and cause a lot of congestion and traffic. Would you wnat to live near a big box retail site? Would you wnat to walk or jog in this type of environment?" The Chair of the Commission told the crowd: "Whether or not Home Depot will be the best building for the site or the best type of use for the site remains to be seen. If we want a landmark building on that site, I don't have a lot of confidence right now that we're going to see it come out of that organization (Home Depot)." Another Commissioner added: "If Home Depot or any store of its kind can't mitigate the environmental impacts that are incrementally above the Emporium store when it was in operation, then they obviously have not met the city's guidelines for a store at that site. That's the bottom line. Case closed, done deal." The hearings will continue into August.

What you can do: Many retailers are running out of open space to lease, so they are turning to existing dead malls or other retail-zoned parcels. In most communities, local officials proceed with the attitude that "we've already malled this area, so let's do it again" mentality. In fact, local communities can insist on higher design standards or dimensional limits that were not in place in the 1970s when the first mall went up -- and were not even envisioned at the time. Redevelopment does not have to mean replaying the same old, tired mistakes of the past. Communities have the right and responsibility to put some new guidelines in place -- especially in previously developed areas. A size cap on buildings is just one significant way to think outside of the box. After Home Depot's presentation, the Mountain View Voice wrote an editorial that began: "In making decisions about development, city governments must balance the interests that collectively determine the quality of life for local residents. To make the best decisions, cities must have all relevant facts at their disposal; they must understand, at the very least, what a project will look like, how large it will be, and what demand it will put on utilities." The paper called Home Depot "an uncooperative participant in the planning process", and said the company's failure to answer questions "smacks of bad faith and should be taken seriously as an indication of its inclinations as a prospective tenant." The editorial notes that large corporations like Home Depot "can often impose their will simply by stonewalling and wearing down local opposition. Once an agreement is signed, recourse can become impossible because cities cannot afford to press their claims." For more information about the Mountain View case, or examples of code violations once Home Depot gets in, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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