Steamboat Springs An ordinance that could keep chain stores out of downtown Steamboat Springs is raising more questions than answers.
The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday night tabled discussion of a proposed formula business ordinance, which would increase the city's approval regulations for brand-name retailers and restaurants - such as Gap and Starbucks - attempting to open on Lincoln Avenue, Yampa Street and Oak Street.
Although Commissioner Dick Curtis made the tabling motion because only four commissioners were present at the Centennial Hall meeting, which was attended by just three members of the public, Curtis also said more time is needed to consider numerous questions about possible impacts of the ordinance.
He and Commissioner Steve Lewis, for example, said increased regulations for formula businesses should apply to other parts of Steamboat, such as the base of Steamboat Ski Area and commercial districts outside of downtown.
"The classic problem with formula stores is that they suck the life out of the downtown core. They are a very strong competitor," Lewis said, citing concerns that allowing more formula businesses outside of downtown would only pull shoppers away from Lincoln Avenue.
The ordinance, prepared by city planning staff, 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 faÃ§ade, a standardized decor and color scheme, a uniform apparel, standardized signage, a trademark or service mark."
Steamboat's ordinance would require formula businesses to meet the standards of a conditional use review, a more stringent approval process than is normally required.
Commissioner Kathi Meyer said many Steamboat businesses - such as Christy Sports and Sportstalker, which are both owned by the Christy Sports chain - are part of regional companies that, with just a slight expansion, may not be able to open a new store downtown under the formula ordinance.
"This could potentially catch a lot of companies who are already here and might want to move downtown. I'm very concerned about the broad nature of this," Meyer said.
Commissioner Cari Herma-
cinski said other efforts, such as improving the exterior appearance of some downtown businesses and preserving a diversity of stores and products, would do more for downtown than restricting brand names.
"I don't think this ordinance is going to protect us from what we fear," she said.
The Planning Commission will next address the formula business ordinance Aug. 23.
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