Big box store discussion returns to Steamboat

Planning Commission set to consider large-format retail


If you go

What: Meeting of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission,

including a discussion of large-format retail stores

When: 6 p.m. today. Large-format retail is the third agenda item after public comment about non-agenda items and a final development plan for an industrial and residential development in Copper Ridge Business Park.

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Contact: Call the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development at 871-8258 or click here for more information.

— City planners tonight will revive public discussion about regulations and locations for large-format retail stores in Steamboat Springs.

The Steamboat Springs Plan­ning Commission is slated to discuss proposed changes to the community development code regarding large-format retail in Steamboat. Tonight’s discussion is a public work session with city planning staff, and no action will be taken about the issue. The meeting is at 6 p.m. at Centennial Hall on 10th Street.

John Eastman, city planning services manager, said large-format regulations apply to any retail store larger than 12,000 square feet. No retail store larger than 20,000 square feet is permitted east of 13th Street — and that standard is not proposed to change, Eastman said, but it will be part of “an open-ended discussion” about where large-format retail is allowed in the city. He said tonight’s discussion also includes proposals by planning staff to “clean up” loopholes, redundancies and inconsistencies in community development code regulations.

Public debate about whether and where to allow such stores in Steamboat has arisen several times in recent years. In 2006, a proposed and ultimately unsuccessful development would have brought a Walgreens store to U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road.

Eastman said large-format regulations were adopted “kind of in the heat of the moment” during review of that development. The regulations contain inconsistencies such as requiring less stringent landscaping for large-format stores than regular commercial zones, Eastman said. City planning staff will present revisions to the Planning Commission tonight.

The city already has added a new size category, for retail between 12,000 and 40,000 square feet, eliminating the requirement for a community impact study from new proposals in that size range.

Large-format retail discussions also arose early this year, when the Planning Co­m­m­i­s­s­ion and Steamboat Springs City Council discussed whether to require the now-approved Steamboat 700 annexation to reserve space for large-format retail.

The City Council voted unanimously in March against making such space a condition of annexation.

Rich Levy, chairman of the Planning Commission, said that discussion spurred talk about where large-format retail should be located.

“A few commissioners at that time thought they would rather see big box downtown than two miles away,” Levy said Wednesday, using “downtown” to mean areas such as Central Park Plaza.

Levy said the Steamboat community has not given a clear direction about large-format retail.

“I know our community is divided about it — there’s a lot to say for and against big box,” Levy said.

“I’ll just say that I’m looking forward to the discussion.”

Tonight’s meeting also includes the Plann­ing Co­mmis­s­ion’s review of the final development plan for a nearly 20,000-square-foot industrial and residential space in six buildings in Copper Ridge Business Park, off Routt County Road 129.

Planning staff said the proposal for the project was consistent with city standards and requirements.

It recommended that Planning Commission support the project.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233

or e-mail


mmjPatient22 7 years, 1 month ago

And for Pete's sake, let's get a frickin' Burger King, Sonic, Carl's Jr. or anything else that will help combat the same worn-out normalcy of the chains that we're currently forced to "enjoy."


bandmama 7 years, 1 month ago

forget Home Depot, forget Target, & there are plenty of places to enjoy food (try the deli and salad bar at City Market for lunch sometime. Great Food, Great Price!!) What we need is VICTORIAS SECRET!!!!!!!!


Brian Kotowski 7 years, 1 month ago

Home Depot. Failing that, a Lowe's will do.

Ace will be fine. It's one of the few stand out brick & mortars in town with a commitment to customer service. There isn't a big box anywhere that comes close in that regard.


mmjPatient22 7 years, 1 month ago

Ok, so who needs Victoria's Secret when you have Sweet Potato and Wal-mart?
See my point?


housepoor 7 years, 1 month ago

I just bought a can of right stuff sealant here in town, cost me 30% more than at Home Depot I do try and buy local and spend a ton at ace but 30%? I know i should have bought it when they had their bag sale..........20% off would have brought it down to just 10% more


bandmama 7 years, 1 month ago

mmj- when was the last time you strolled through the undies section at Wal-Mart?!!!!!! And Sweet Tater does have some things but certainly not the variety that a gal would like, I bet the menfolk would enjoy it also.... And...umm......I was being sarcastic. housepoor makes a good point. It is very expensive to shop locally as much as we want to support local business a lot of us are having to shop more online, and/or drive elsewhere. It would be nice if some of the local businesses lowered thier prices, more of us would shop local if that were the case.. (And you have to admit, that silky things from Wal Mart, if and when you can find them at this Wal Mart,are not as nice as silky things from other stores...)


TheBeard 7 years ago

As a small business owner in Steamboat Springs for the last 9 years, I have made the commitment to offer all of my products at prices at least equal to if not below Best Buy, Circuit City and Wolf Camera stores while maintaining better service than at any of those other stores. I have had to fight the assumption that my prices would be higher than those big box stores because I was in a ski town, but thanks to the amazing power of word of mouth advertising from the locals in Steamboat, I have gotten that competitive pricing point across to most. Even though I have found ways to stay price competitive, while offering impeccable personal service, I am still wary of a Best Buy moving into town. New residents to Steamboat that haven't made friends yet to refer local businesses to them will have the familiarity of shopping at a Best Buy along with the "Ski Town Price Jack" assumption that took me years to dispel. Stores like Best Buy have also been known locally to undercut their competition until the small businesses close, only to then raise their prices above the national averages. Furthermore, Windles point of the homogonized look of a shopping strip of big box stores greeting our visitors from the east or west will only detract from the uniqueness of Steamboat Springs. I sincerely thank all of my loyal customers over the past 9 years for allowing me to be in business in this town. I will remain diligent in providing the service and quality that you have come to expect from my shop. If any new big box stores come into town all that I can ask is that you all still give the little businesses a fair chance to compete on price and service, whether its that new camera, a box of drywall screws, organic peanuts, or even nice silky things.

Thanks for listening, Jay Mogil Mogil's on the Mountain The Photoshop


1999 7 years ago

funny...people worry about Steamboat becoming another Aspen....we should be worried about Steamboat becoming another Silverthorn.


Steve Lewis 7 years ago

I don't know if these numbers are still applicable, but earlier studies in Maine and in Austin TX found that 14% of a dollar spent in a chain stayed in the local economy. The studies found that 45% of a dollar spent in a locally owned store stayed in the local economy. That's 31 cents of every dollar getting recirculated in Steamboat if you shop at locally owned stores.

On the other hand the City wants those sales tax dolllars a Target would capture. The logic being a Target here keeps our dollars from flowing toward I-70.

Will this recession turn the City pro Big Box and against local businesses?

Others point to the damage the internet does. Perhaps this area is ripe for a City audit. Is that City tax you paid for your Dell actually getting here?


Chad James 7 years ago

First, let me say that I'm getting a kick out of this discussion already. I'm particularly amused by the adamant comments from housepoor oshkoshgirl and mmjpatient with not only support for a bix box, but specific recommendations....thanks guys. I'm in for the Target and Home Depot, but I'm not a big fast food I'll hold out for something other than Burger King restaurant-wise.

Steve, what you're referring to is "economic leakage", and Scott Ford, and others whose names I'm sorry that I can't remember, executed an Economic Leakage survey a few years ago that annotated and quantified some of these numbers. As I remember the number of local dollars being "leaked" to other places (internet, Silverthorn, Denver, etc.) was pretty substantial. Over 80% if I remember. (Scott?)

In fact, at the risk of getting this comment deleted, Scott recently wrote an article in another local publication regarding big box and leakage that I think is appropriate to this discussion.

You can check it out here:


bandmama 7 years ago

Jay- thanks for bringing this to our attention. It is good to know and will encourage some of us to do our best to keep our business in the valley.


Oshkoshgirl 7 years ago

I always try to support local businesses first. Unfortunately, we have nothing in between the Walmart and Sweet Potato lingerie or 8th Street West and Urban Laundry price point for clothing. I personally cannot afford to buy a $100 t-shirt at our downtown shops. So I buy clothes on line or at Target or in Denver when I get out of town. I would love to be able to afford clothes that are not from Walmart here in Steamboat. I buy lots of other stuff though. My digital camera is from Jay's shop. I miss Bogg's Hardware. But there are so many people who are new in town who have no loyalty to local businesses, I think a big box store is inevitable, and a place to buy clothing would be great! Thus the request for Target.


bandmama 7 years ago

I cant afford it either, not many of us can, there are always end of season sales!!!!! It would nice to have a Down Town Open Hfor the locals sometime. As much as we appreciate the business and revenue sent our way by our tourism trade. It would be nice for those of us who try to keep it local to feel like our business is just as important as the visitors. I know I shouldn't admit this in this forum, but to be honest, with the exception of a few down town businesses, I very rarely go into a downtown shop "just to look" Why? because I know that I cant afford the majority of the merchandise. Shayna Cook, owner of Over the Moon does a Ladies Night every so often, she notifies folks by email of the event and special offers. I love it, and it encourages those of us who normally dont shop alot to go in and see what is new and fun! And yes, I do usually end up buying something I didn't think I needed. There are also discounts offered for those that show up....


Brian Kotowski 7 years ago

With so many of our brick & mortars geared for the tourist trade, it's difficult to take the "shop locally" claptrap seriously.

A few days before xmas last year, I realized I'd forgotten to get something for an elderly friend. She has a sweet tooth, so I figured an assortment from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory would do the trick.

I rolled onto Lincoln just before 10AM, and at LEAST half the retailers were closed, including both candy stores. RMCF didn't open until 11AM. That may be useful for the lawyer visiting from Dallas, but it's tough on the worker bees.

I'll continue to shop online, and not feel a twinge of guilt about it.


Karen_Dixon 7 years ago

Chad, thanks for pointing us to Scotts articles. Scott, I am curious how a few of the small local merchants in Boulder are doing since the likes of Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, Target and big big grocers set up shop there: McGuckins Hardware Bart's CD Cellar Lolita's Market Ideal Market Boulder Book Store Into the Wind Boulder Lumber The Video Station Mike's Camera Starr's Clothing & Shoes The Pedestrian Shop Earls Saw Shop

Yes, Boulder's population is quite a bit larger, but I believe there are still some lessons. People fought formula stores, the mall & big box retailers there forever - many on the premise that they would turn Boulder into Genericity USA; many on the premise that Mom & Pop would dry up. When the mall & big box set up shop in Superior/Broomfield, the residents of Boulder were more than happy to drive the short distance to spend their dollar there. Tax dollars flew out of the community. However, those same people still shopped at the stores I listed above for the things they always bought at those stores. (I happened to be one of them.) Big Box & Formula Stores supplemented offerings, they did not replace offerings.

Well, Big Box, Big Grocer, & 29th Street Mall are kicking strong in Boulder now. Yet, one could hardly say that Boulder has been generesized. What made Boulder special still makes Boulder special. The stores I mentioned above are still in business, and when I visited McGuckins last weekend it was packed. I did not go into Home Depot - but their parking lot was full, so I imagine they were packed as well.


mtroach 7 years ago

Karen a flaw in your logic is the fact that while Superior/Broomfield was expanding and building those new shopping stores, the population of the front range more than doubled. When I lived in Boulder in the late 80's, there was nothing between Denver and Boulder, now thousands of homes and businesses line this busy road. That growth is what allowed both Home Depot and McGuckins Hardware to flurish. Untill we see that type of growth curve in the Vampa Valley, a Home Depot or Lowes will just close local businesses. Even a fully built out 700 wont bring enough new people to the valley to support multiple BB stores, and bringing them in will ultimatly put local businesses on the ropes triing to compete with a BB whose prices are supported by a national chain and kept artifically lower to attract customers at the expense of locals that need to charge more in order to keep the doors open.


Karen_Dixon 7 years ago

Thanks, MT... that was the perspective and debate I expected to get, and I don't disagree that population has everything to do with it, and for that reason, Boulder may not be a valid example. I don't expect that any Big Box will move to this valley any time soon, as Scott Ford says in his article, because I don't think the region has the critical mass necessary to support it. But then, I am not privy to their business plans and marketing strategies, so I could be wrong about that.

I cannot agree, however, that local businesses will go under if BB moves in....without further data. Local businesses compete with BB already - many locals save their shopping dollars to spend on a trip to the Front Range. But the bigger competitor in this day & age is the internet. The data concerning how BB impacts small towns is OLD data, pre-ecommerce. Small local businesses all over the country are forced to reinvent their strategies, regardless. In today's world, shopping at small stores is as much about the experience as it is about the merchandise....and by "the experience," I mean 2 things. First is customer service & knowledge about their particular products. This is what Jay offers & this is what Jim @ Precision Sharpening offers, as well as the pharmacists @ Lion Drugs. And that is why I believe McGuckin's Hardware & Boulder Lumber are not threatened by Home Depot. Second, is the ambiance and social interaction that you don't get sitting behind a computer or wandering the aisles of a BB. That ambiance is a huge factor in what attracts consumers. Tracy Barnett and the Main Street folks are working hard to move downtown Steamboat in that direction. Applause - it's the right thing to do - even though many locals feel slighted as a result. Many locals think that they are merely targeting tourists to the detriment of the local shopper & that the price points reflect that. As you read from a blogger above, we rarely even window shop because of that perception.

It would be wise for local merchants to track their sales by zip code. This would be useful data for decision makers of the City with respect to the issue of BB, but more significantly, it would be useful & critical information for the merchants themselves. Know who your customers really are. I would be surprised if a significant percentage comes from 77,88 or 87. (would we have a mud season if it did?)

I believe that the local downtown merchants would actually see a boost in sales if we plugged the BB leak. When a group of women leaves town to go Big Box shopping, they also likely go someplace to get their experiential boutique shopping fix... Pearl Street in Boulder, Cherry Creek or The Highlands in Denver, for example. (Men, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about!) If we can get our inexpensive necessities here, we will likely join our own tourist base & do more of our frivolous, self-indulgent shopping here as well.

To use Scotts phrase, "that is how I see it."


Matthew Stoddard 7 years ago

Back to this Sonic request...wasn't Craig supposed to get one? I'd prefer it here, though.


JLM 7 years ago

Sooooo, what are the advantages of big box retailers?

Price, selection, convenience.....

What are the advantages of local retailers?


The market is going to go where their dollars are more valuable. That is simple economics. So what are the unique selling advantages of locally owned businesses? How can they compete for and capture sales?

Other than repatriating the profits to out of town owners, it is difficult to see how the distribution of benefits or the allocation of the expense statement is any different when comparing out of town corporate big box retailers v locally owned retailers.


Oshkoshgirl 7 years ago

I do shop for gifts downtown. Over the Moon and Tallulah have great gifts, and I love the Art Company, and many other shops. The comment above about the shops not being open at 10am brought to mind the fact that many shops are not open after 5pm. So those of us who have to work and can't go shopping between 11am and 5pm can't spend our money in Steamboat anyway, even if we could afford to buy $100 plain white t-shirts and $300 jeans.


Scott Wedel 7 years ago

I wish the "analysis" of local retail vs out of valley counted more than the amount of sales tax not collected from locals shopping elsewhere.

Any serious economic analysis of "leakage" would consider how much money leaves the valley due to the transaction. For retail transactions, there is the cost to the local store of getting the item into the store. Local chain stores may also be sending a significant amount of money out of town for franchise fees and other corporate services. If the owner is not local then it is also possible that the profits also largely go out of town and the only money retained locally are wages and sales tax.

Thus, a local bargain shopping elsewhere could purchase a discounted item elsewhere and actually keep more money in the valley (in the local's wallet) than buying locally.

Obviously, buying a high margin item from a locally owned shop is going to keep a higher percentage of the sales price in the valley than from a low margin chain.

Meanwhile, most of the money spent at a local restaurant is going to stay in the valley.

And the money spent on professional services such as lawyers, accountants, architects and consultants either almost entirely stays or leaves the valley depending upon their location. But those transactions do not pay sales tax so are not considered "leakage" by our local governments.

Anyone serious about economic development would agree that increasing the amount spent locally on professional services is much more important than keeping a similar amount of money spent locally on retail.

And yet all the discussion is about retail because of the dreams of additional sales tax revenue. I think this focus on sales tax revenues in a city that collects so much money in sales and lodging taxes from tourists borders on the immoral. The main reason that SB 700 was asked to consider big box retail was because Hayden annexed land suitable for big boxes. So big box which was not wanted in SB became a topic of interest only after a neighboring town raised the possibility of eventually attracting them. SB needs to stop obsessing about sales tax leakage. SB city government has a huge amount of revenues per resident compared to any normal city. It is well past time to stop giving sales tax a higher priority than overall economic development.


JLM 7 years ago

The flaw in any such economic analysis is the assumption that a profit generated by a "local" actually stays local. After the basic requirements of shelter, food, transportation are paid for --- there is absolutely no valid presumption that the remaining funds/profit are retained locally.

It could be sitting in the Cayman Islands or invested in an internet Schwab account. It could even be in an internet Cayman Islands Schwab account. LOL

Goods can clearly be quite different than personal or professional services in the flow of the attendant expense statement expenditures.

Governments should do everything they can to encourage a robust local economy short of actually undertaking to participate directly --- public policy yes, Iron Ho House no!


JusWondering 7 years ago

Of course the organization has a bias, but this tool has some very good questions that should be asked:

I really don't see the issue as locals shopping locally. The leakage has existed since the first pioneers crossed over from Breckenridge into the Yampa Valley... I can remember listening to old timers tell me their stories of heading to Denver in the Fall to get provisions for the winter and that it was a week long excursion one way. Even as a kid I can remember my family taking our annual trip to the predecessor of Costco (Pace) to stock up for the winter. So, nothing new there. It would be my hypothesis that it may increase leakage by a rounding error if a big box store were closer. The bigger concern relates to Scott's point... the tourist dollars. Would they rather get their Steamboat branded merchandise, their snacks and liquor from a big box retailer or a local retailer? How price sensitive are they as buyers? That to me seems the biggest risk. Seems to me the biggest question is more of where versus if. I would be opposed to a new big box in Ski Time Square. I remember when Wal-Mart came to town. I remember the uproar that it would kill downtown... it hasn't. The new "Disneyland" development of downtown has done more damage IMHO.


diplodocus 7 years ago

I second the motion for a BK or Sonic. I don't like Big Mac's and the only thing on the menu across the street I can stomach is a Frosty. As to normal retail items, I'll continue to shop HD in Boulder or Avon when I'm there anyway, and when Steamboat has a game in Pallisade or GJ, I'll stop by Costco with a friend who has a card. I refuse to pay 30-50% more locally for items to remodel a bathroom or for Xmas presents. And I feel no guilt buying a jacket online from L. L. Bean's for $60 rather than for $100-200 at a local shop. In case no one has noticed, we're in tough economic times, and saving 30-50% on retail items makes my balance sheet look better at month's end. I'll continue to use businesses like Neste's Glass b/c they provide convenience and service that I can't match out of town. But a kitchen faucet is a kitchen faucet whether I buy it locally for $100 or from Home Depot for $60. I won't drive a hundred miles out of my way to shop, but since circumstances force me to be in the Denver/Boulder and Avon/Eagle area anyway, I'll save some money when I can. If there were a HD or Target in Steamboat, I would shop there instead of adding one more stop when I am on the road. Although driving to the west side of town is getting to be enough of a hassle that it still might be more convenient to stop in Avon or Boulder. Enough rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say is that families working for wages and living here are going to save money where they can to make ends meet. If it's more convenient or the same price to shop locally, they will. Otherwise, like me, they'll stop in Silverthorne or Boulder or Avon.


freerider 7 years ago

six to one the goods are odd ....what steamboat really needs is a good brothel and sell season passes


blue_spruce 7 years ago

the other day at wall mart one of the staff asked ME where something was. a few customers and i got a good laugh out of that one!


blue_spruce 7 years ago

i vote for a strip club in milner! think about it!


greenwash 7 years ago

Ditto to the strip club.

Yes to Home Depot and say good bye to locally owned ACE at the sametime.

bring on the 700 already...or at least in next 10 years.


runnerbikerdriver44 7 years ago

To play Devil's Advocate, I have to ask, why are people against new jobs? Think of the construction, cashier, manager, etc., jobs that would open up. We already have chains in town which can theoretically take away from Mom and Pop business, so what's the big difference? I use to work at Starbucks, and I know people touted it as the "Big, Bad Wolf" when it came to town (think "Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Starbucks), but Starbucks paid me a competitive wage, offered full health/vision/dental benefits, and it was the assurance that by working for a large company, I would be taken care of. And if everyone hired by these companies lives within town, wouldn't their paychecks be adding to the economic stimulation of Steamboat Springs? In tough times, can we really say no to companies wanting to come in and open up new jobs and affordable benefits?


housepoor 7 years ago

i have a feeling the people who oppose big box stores have no problem shopping here in town, $200 jeans are just fine and they rarely have to do their own home repairs


Russell Orms 7 years ago

the reason bb succeeds is that they offer more choices and better prices. it really is that simple. we all would like to shop locally but when the time comes to actually buy, we buy where the prices and selection are best.


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