Formula stores up for debate

Ordinance would limit chain businesses downtown



Taylor Miller-Freutel prepares a coffee drink behind the counter Wednesday at Starbucks on U.S. Highway 40 in Steamboat Springs. Starbucks is one of a handful of "formula" stores already operating successfully in the Steamboat area. The city is considering an ordinance that would make it more difficult for formula stores to open in downtown Steamboat.

— City planners have drafted an ordinance that would make it harder for chain stores such as Gap or Starbucks from setting up shop in downtown Steamboat Springs.

The ordinance stresses a need to preserve a small-town atmosphere in Old Town.

"The Historic Downtown Commercial Districts are a special and unique asset within the city which could be impacted by the presence of formula establishments that are out of harmony with the downtown districts and which do not contribute to the small town atmosphere," the ordinance reads.

Senior Planner Jonathan Spence said work on the ordinance began more than a year ago at the request of some members of the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission.

"We looked at a number of other communities that have formula regulations in place, and tried to draft a definition that is appropriate for here," Spence said.

Planning staff reviewed formula business regulations in municipalities including Sausalito, Calif., Port Townsend, Wash., and Bristol, R.I., said Spence, adding municipalities with such regulations are hard to find.

"They are mostly in smaller towns that have a very high tourist volume or are perhaps located near other larger towns," he said.

Steamboat's ordinance would require formula businesses to meet the standards of a conditional use review, a more stringent approval process than is typically required.

The Planning Commission will review the ordinance at 6 p.m. today at Centennial Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

The ordinance defines a formula business as "a type of retail sales activity or retail sales establishment, including restaurant which, along with 10 or more other retail sales establishments, maintains two or more of the following features: a standardized array of merchandise, a standardized façade, a standardized decor and color scheme, a uniform apparel, standardized signage, a trademark or service mark."

Spence said Steamboat's relatively small population is not the ideal market for most formula businesses.

"One of the peculiarities about Steamboat is that we don't really have a lot of that formula stuff - we don't have a Gap," Spence said. "You really need a stronger population base. That's what they're looking for. They want to go into places like Littleton that have a massive volume. We just don't have that."

But commercial space downtown is about to grow significantly.

Local developer Jim Cook of Colorado Group Realty is spearheading three downtown projects - Howelsen Place at Seventh Street, Alpenglow at Sixth Street and Riverwalk at Fifth and Yampa streets - that will add a total of about 50,000 square feet of commercial space downtown.

Other projects under construction, including The Victoria at 10th Street and The Olympian at Fifth Street, also will add commercial space.

Howelsen Place alone will have 10 businesses, Cook said Wednesday. He disagreed with implementing a formula store ordinance downtown.

"I'm a free market guy," Cook said. "Plus, I think design guidelines can handle the impact of any formula store that might look at the downtown."

Cook said some name brands could attract shoppers downtown and increase the vitality of the entire area.

"There are some national (stores) that I can guarantee you, downtown retailers would love to have next door to them, because it would pick up their business," Cook said. "Would a Cold Stone Creamery be bad for downtown? I don't think so."

Spence also noted the positive impacts national brands can have.

"People will go to one of these, and then they'll shop at the little store next door," Spence said. "On the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, when The Cheesecake Factory moved in, everybody's sales went up. : It's a complex issue."


bikegirl 9 years, 4 months ago

I am really tired of Jim Cook and his visions of "revitalizing" our downtown.I think Steamboat 's economy is healthy and vital already.Hey Jim,How about Cook Town,USA?


id04sp 9 years, 4 months ago

Oh, but Grasshopper, don't you see that banning formula stores will lead to the sale of those retail spaces, which will be bought up by developers, and razed to make room for condos?

Timeshares in Aspen sell for over $1,000,000. Steamboat will get there.

Don't you see what's happening?


Geary Baxter 9 years, 4 months ago

If McDonalds is good enough for the Champs-Ãlysees, it is good enough for Downtown Steamboat. Besides, one McDonalds isn't enough. We need two, just like every other town in America. And why would anyone want to sell local art when there is more profit in Made in China art? We don't need to be thinking outside the box, we need to be thinking Big Box. Make people feel right at home, by golly. And while we are at it, let's get rid of Ski Town, USA and replace it with Anytown, USA. Its the ONLY way, the American way.


routty 9 years, 4 months ago

Another way to look at it is through the eyes of the property owners who are responsible for the costs of maintainance, upkeep and property taxes for their building (and the taxes, by the way, are probably soon to go up with the city's eventual establishment of the business improvement district downtown). They want to rent the space to someone who can reliably pay the rent for what the space is worth, with an absolute minimum turnover in tenants. But if this ordinance is adopted, the city will essentially take on the role of telling property owners downtown (and only in downtown, mind you) that retailers X, Y, Z are ineligible to rent their space. City Council and Planning Commission (and STAFF) should think about some "carrots" for the property owners to keep a unique and vibrant and local retail mix downtown, instead of just the "stick."


mtroach 9 years, 4 months ago

I hate to say it but I agree with Cook that the free market should decide. I would rather see a Gap, selling, and taxing than an empty space downtown. What local business will be able to afford the spaces that are being built without high prices? High prices will just send us locals out of town for our needs. Remember you can always choose to not shop at those chain stores if you oppose their existance in our town.


phidgt 9 years, 4 months ago

I also find myself in the incredibly awful situation of agreeing with Cook. What a major jolt to my system. If you are interested, you can read more at


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 4 months ago

I just find it funny Cook says let the free market decide, yet was quoted last month saying Bob's Conoco wasn't in his vision for the location it occupies.


spukomy 9 years, 4 months ago

Jim Cook wants what is good for Jim Cook. Routty is right, Starbucks and the Gap stand a much better chance of paying rent and sticking around. Deep pockets count in the long run. I'm figuring on a lot of restraunt space being vacant or leased sporatically.

After the new builings are completed downtown, and say 100% are occupied, who's going to work there?

I'm pretty sick of Jim Cooks vision.


Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 4 months ago

Spukomy- I think you may have misunderstood: Cook is FOR formula stores coming in. His vision is just to sell it to the highest bidder. As long as he makes the commission, I don't think he cares what comes in.

You make a great point, though. With almost any business here in town short on employees and housing prices skyrocketing, more businesses will just be reallocating the current workforce at best.


madmoores 9 years, 4 months ago

I may be speaking in the wrong here but what is the big problem with formula stores? As a spender in Steamboat, I would rather give my money to a formula store that would have what I want instead of ten times the amount to some local that has a specialty shop selling $1000 wind chimes or $30 t-shirts. All that Jazz is the exception(LOVE that place)because I can buy music there for relatively the same price(sometimes less)as anywhere else and the selection fits my musical style. I'm sure there are a FEW others but I have not found them yet. Why not have a Gap, or an Old Navy or maybe a Burger King(mmmmmmm....chicken sandwich) where you can get clothes/food/goods at a REASONABLE price. What should be eliminated are the half dozen "same-steamboat-shirt-for-sale-down-the-street" shops that charge you an arm for a crummy shirt. Having chain formula stores would likely bring in others from out of town to shop at places they would have to drive alot more miles to. One other comment struck me as dilusional:

"The ordinance stresses a need to preserve a small-town atmosphere in Old Town."

HA!! That "atmosphere is already gone and putting in formula stores would not affect what is not there anymore. I know, I know, I don't live there so go ahead and beat me up for my comment. If you don't want em', Craig will take them. We are breaking ground for a Walgreens as I type. The new Wal-Mart superstore is looking great. We have nothing to lose as our "small town atmosphere" left us 20 years ago. Just MY O. Thanks.


letsteamboatstaysmall 9 years, 4 months ago

steamboat is a small town not an american one i would like some new stores though


Zalobar 9 years, 4 months ago

For the Millionaires here who think they have a clue about this town and their vision for SS. The Billionaires are COMMING, Repeat that several times, Chicken Little style. There will be no stopping THEM or their vision for Steamboat Springs. Sit down shut up and hold onto your seats, Its going to be a rough ride. Is that how it goes? Correct me if Im wrong. As far as staffing goes. Austrailian Bus drivers, Jamacian store clercks, Russian stock staff, Argentenian ski instructors, etc. Will do, they desirve opportunity too. Pony up and quit yer whinning.


ihatestupidpeople 9 years, 4 months ago

bring it on like said before it will fill the empty store fronts that the locals can not pay for because the city and the landlords charge to much get used to the chain stores right on i dont have to drive to denver anymore heck ya


bikegirl 9 years, 4 months ago

BoulderGrad-I moved her 28 years ago to get away from the urban sprawl,and I've outfitted 3 kids along the way-still am-Yes it can be challenging to shop here,but for my family,it has just become part of choosing to live here.If we start bringing in all the businesses you mention.we will just be another Silverthorne.If you want to live in a town like that,then please move to a town like that.Yes change is good,but not when Steamboat loses it's soul to accomodate peoples consumerism.


fish 9 years, 4 months ago

I guess bikegirl trumps you Bouldergrad because she claims to have lived here for 28 years, so that apparently makes her more "local" than you. I just think that it is too bad that we did not shut the gate before she got here 28 years ago because it was that era of people moving into the area that killed the small town feeling of Steamboat. Anyone that thinks that it is something Steamboat still has is kidding themselves. It left when they put up the first gondola.


madmoores 9 years, 4 months ago

Bikegirl must also be rather wealthy because I could not afford to outfit ONE kid at Steamboat prices let alone three kids. Steamboat lost it's "soul" long ago so what difference would it make if some real business moved in? It would make a "mileage driven" difference that's what, 40 instead of 130 to Silverthorne, 160 to GJ, 220 to Denver to save from being schnooked by locals charging Asspen prices. Steamboat has nothing to lose that has not been lost already and those of you thinking that Steamboat is still a "small town", get a grip. Ride up on the mountain some day and look over your "small town", not so small anymore is it? Anyway, if you people don't want the big box formula stores, send them west to Craig, our arms are open and we will gladly take your money.


Routty2007 9 years, 4 months ago

Intrawest was welcomed because the ski area couldn't get into the black and the area needed improvements. Old Town needs a face lift and it's in progress. With multi-use buildings retail will become part of that. As mentioned a few weeks ago, try to have a conversation at a restaurant where you sit outside along Lincoln (where is the bypass)? The open market should be in play with all retail (it might help the sales tax issue the Chamber keeps bring up) or go to the net to purchase goods. I love Old Town and that's where I live but it is finally getting some nice improvements. A free market will benefit the city and consumer.


soccercstate 9 years, 3 months ago

Change is good but when we allow one person to put his footprint on what he thinks Steamboat should be then let's just rename the place......COOKVILLE USA!!!


bikegirl 9 years, 3 months ago

fish- I said I moved here 28 years ago-It's not a matter of Whose more local-Buy,my family's been ranching in the area for about 80 years.


fish 9 years, 3 months ago

Oh, I am sorry it sure sounds like you are playing the I am more local than you are game, since you also seem to then have the need to tell us how long your family has been in the area. Excuse me if I misunderstood.

I guess that you have to move Bouldergrad.


bikegirl 9 years, 3 months ago

fish -You missed my point-I don't care how long anyone has lived here -Anyone who truly cares about OUR community is a"Local"whether you've been here one year or 50 years -What I am saying is -Were changing for the worse.And to madmoores -I am by no means wealthy.Thrift stores ,hand me downs,and being frugal.Needs vs. wants.


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