Richard Levy: Expanding editorial

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— On Dec 27, the Steamboat Today's "Our View: Cap Won't Come Without a Price" talks about Steamboat's newly adopted "big box ordinance." The editorial correctly points out that "big-box stores will detract from our (town's) natural beauty and its unique sense of community, which is part of our attractiveness to both residents and visitors."

The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley would also like to join the Editorial Board in congratulating City Council on being proactive in establishing these new rules before we are overrun.

There are some other points that are raised that we would like to discuss. A comparison is made between cities that allow stores up to 60,000 square feet (Taos, Bozeman and Madison) and cities that have set lower limits similar to what we've adopted (Hailey, Homer and Walpole). Cities in the first group have an average population of 86,000, the latter average 5,500. Our vision of Steamboat is more aligned with those smaller towns. We would be dismayed if our City Council adopted ordinances similar to towns of 86,000 people.

The editorial raises an important issue of "leakage." In our mind there are two types of leakage:

The first, as the editorial discusses, is when locals shop elsewhere. There will always be competition for the retail dollar. No matter how many stores we allow in Steamboat, people will travel to shop. This allows them to travel and experience different retail opportunities. We are sure the Editorial Board does not endorse us having the same stores as everyone else.

It is unknown how keeping these stores from establishing a foothold in Steamboat would impact the city's sales tax revenues. These revenues have been rising consistently without adding numerous big-box or formula stores.

A better question is, "Should sales tax revenue fund all of our essential services?" It is our opinion that this creates a dangerous dependency. Rather than threatening our most valuable asset of community feel to feed the sales tax beast, we recommend exploring other ways to tap into new areas of wealth spilling into our economy. Our changing economy insists that we look to other sources. Just as we strive to diversify our economy, we should look to new ways to accomplish our community's goals. This linkage and the recently adopted inclusionary zoning ordinances are excellent examples of using diversity to meet our goals.

Large corporations also create another form of "leakage." When we buy from locally owned stores we support our community. Locally owned stores use their money here on services such as accounting, supply purchases and marketing services. Owners of these stores will also spend a large portion of their profits in Steamboat. Where do we think the profits from a mega-store are spent?

Ever since the loss of Bogg's Hardware, the community has said that it values its small family owned businesses and our unique retail environment. The Community Alliance works to preserve these values. These ordinances are new tools to protect these values.

Richard Levy, vice president

The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley

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