Tuesday, February 21, 2006
This is a response to Steamboat Today's View Points opinion regarding the proposed Walgreens and reasoning behind why it should be approved.
The Today asserts that Walgreens should be approved for the simple fact that the developers have successfully negotiated the "big-box" ordinance review and done as the Steamboat Springs City Council asked. In short, the Today is arguing that because the developer correctly checked off the boxes of the planning process, thus empowering the City Council to have it built "our way," then it should get the thumbs up.
I find the opinion of the Today to be one-dimensional and the lack of vision disturbing. My concerns are not so much how it is built, as it is what happens after it is built.
I am not against developing this parcel, and I am not against the big-box ordinance; I know the former is inevitable, and the latter a stepping stone to better public planning. My question is this: Why Walgreens? What can a person get at Walgreens that you cannot already get in town? Building a Walgreens brings many more implications far outside the permit and building process.
Big business is not always an asset to a local economy. Profits made by a corporation are removed from a community and are sent to a headquarters somewhere else. This is money that will not get recycled in our community, money that will not be spent in a restaurant, to paint a house, to upgrade facilities, to bring continued business and tax revenue. In return, it will provide jobs in the form of low-income employment that never seems to get past that category.
As for specific public benefits, the proposal includes site improvements, increased sales tax revenues and affordable housing. These are all great ideas; however, site improvements can be stipulated to any developer, sales tax revenue will be increased by any business (except those that offer the same products for less, or worse yet, put another vender out of business), and an affordable housing ordinance already is under consideration by the City Council as a mandated requirement of future developments. All these elements can be accomplished without Walgreens.
We are a community built on tourism. People come here for a unique experience and glimpse of a unique lifestyle, Western and terrain park. In my opinion, these businesses such as Walgreens fall into one category: Generica. Nobody travels across the country to visit a place that is down the street in their hometown. How does this enhance the guest experience? How does this perpetuate this "local flavor" that has come to attract so many people? How does this help Steamboat economically? How does this help Steamboat socially? Where is this report by Walgreens?
What has happened to the vision of this community? What direction are we headed? Where is our City Council taking us? Every candidate in the recent election uttered the phrase, "I will do what is best for Steamboat community." How is this Walgreens benefiting our community? Because it successfully went through the permit process and is getting "built on our terms"? What?
I am not against development, but big business can be managed only at a local level, and it is up to us and our council members to do this. Just because it is getting "built on our terms" does not mean that it is a good idea. I'm simply not convinced that Walgreens is the best idea. Simply count all the unanswered questions. Why not invite a certain type of business to town, one more unique (i.e. Trader Joe's, etc)?
Why not have a vision?