Our View: Balance key in Walgreens planning

Advertisement

Editorial Board, August through December 2010

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Rich Lowe, community representative
  • Sue Birch, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— A proposal to develop a Walgreens along the U.S. Highway 40 corridor in Steam­boat Springs provides a clear example of when city officials should apply common sense to the community development code and urban design standards.

The Walgreens development application was tabled by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Thursday night after commissioners determined there were too many code variances and not enough evidence of public benefit to approve the application as presented. The commissioners were right to ask the developer, Steamboat’s Brian Olson, to provide an estimate of the overall economic impact of the Walgreens to Steamboat. We also support the commissioners’ request that Olson provide better landscaping between the store’s façade and U.S. 40.

What we take issue with are some aspects of the building code, particularly as it relates to the city’s urban design standards adopted in February 2008.

For example, the standards require that new commercial buildings be situated on their lots so as to abut main streets and intersections. One reason for this requirement is to minimize the visual impact of parking lots. Walgreens, however, requires a design that accommodates 40-foot delivery trucks and a drive-through pharmacy window for customers. A building that must front U.S. 40 and Pine Grove Road doesn’t allow for either.

Olson and architect Eric Smith are proposing a Walgreens that may be as attractive as any of the national chain’s 7,000 or so retail locations. The irony is that it may not be approved despite its presence in east Steamboat among a number of less-than-attractive commercial buildings — there are notable exceptions such as Ski Haus — that don’t come close to meeting today’s stricter design standards.

We don’t advocate for relaxing all design standards simply because of what new development might inject into a struggling economy. Rather, we want city officials to exercise flexibility in how individual applications are evaluated. In the case of Walgreens, more is needed from the developer to justify its request for 11 variances from the Community Development Code. Better landscaping and a thorough economic impact analysis are at the top of the list.

What the city shouldn’t do is force conformity to all design standards when and where they don’t make sense. The proposed Walgreens location appears to be a prime example.

Comments

beentheredonethat 3 years, 7 months ago

if walgreens cannot comply with steamboat's building standards, they can choose another location or simply walk away from the project.

other businesses situated on highway 40 have been made to comply and i see no reason why an exception should be made for this store.

0

addlip2U 3 years, 7 months ago

What is the purpose for having building codes, urban design standards and zoning laws if everyone wants a variance? Comply!

0

1999 3 years, 7 months ago

well...the walgreens people think that theu will stike while the iron is hot.....and in this case...they see SBS as desperate to create some sort of "economic recovery" so they feel they can easily get these 11 variences waived.

looking at this as some sort of ecomic savior is short sighted....there is NOTHING Walgreens offers that is not already offered in steamboat.

building this store will only further dilute the already slim shopping dollars.

and we will be sending the dollars to a giant chain.

good bye steamboat..... hello silverthorn!!!!!!

0

Tubes 3 years, 7 months ago

Walgreen's will fit right in at this location just across the street from Staples and with Wal Mart and Sports Authority off in the distance. Quit trying to sound like you live in Telluride or something.

0

Scott Ford 3 years, 7 months ago

There is no compelling need to make it more difficult to do business in Steamboat Springs than it already is.There is big difference between economic impact, economic benefit and economic development.

If we do not at the policy level (City Council, Planning Department and Planning Commission) define these three terms precisely we run the risk of appearing even more arbitrary and capricious in how we conduct the City's business than necessary. Shame on us for incorporating these "economic" terms into the development code, mission statements and/or guiding principles without clearly defining them.

We do not need to make arriving at definitions so complex it takes months of meetings to finalize. City Council can demonstrate leadership by insisting that the City Planning Director and the Planning Commission complete the task by March 1st. It's not hard!

We have the data, methodologies and the local expertise to do this. We simply need to come to an agreement on what they mean to the City of Steamboat Springs and then apply the definitions consistently from a policy perspective. I do not think this is asking too much. In addition, commit not to change the definitions once agreed to at the policy level for at least 5 to 7 years.

0

Powhound 3 years, 7 months ago

Walgreens does offer different services and products. Service is excellent, they care and give back to the communities they serve.

0

1999 3 years, 7 months ago

what do they offer that we can't already get AT LEAST two fold here in steamboat.

powhound...you are uder the impression that ANY big corporations gives a hoot about the communites in which they build? it's all about the money and nothing more. please...don't even bring that silly argument here. they don't care any more than any other huge corporation.

really?

0

ybul 3 years, 7 months ago

Scott F,

would not economic impact be how a development impacts the economy.

I can not see how this business/building is going to impact the economy in a largely positive way. It only brings potentially a transit roundabout that only has an impact on the immediate business'.

Benefit, how much benefit from this business/building is going to add to the community.

The building will only serve to make the community look like most towns that visitors come from. The benefit of a drive through pharmacy is overrated as, if pondered upon Lyons Drug, could have a pharmacist run out the door and deliver a prescription to a customer. Do not know that could happen at City Market or Safeway.

Development, would be how this building/business is going to help move the community in the direction you want.

I do not see that the building would have any meaningful impact on fostering a climate in which it draws additional business'/tourists here (might actually cause tourists not to come as the town just looks like home so why come). The tech incubator probably does, as those individuals feed on one another's ideas. A unique building probably could, as people travel to see unique architecture (ie. Santa Fe, wright's falling waters, etc.). This building/business can be found in any town USA, not going to bring in any additional business/money.

So while the standards that caused the need for so many variances might need reviewed, I see little cause to waive any part of the development code for the structure. again, the development code may need rewritten as it has many variables that might not be conducive to any business.

0

jerry carlton 3 years, 7 months ago

I am a newcomer to the area. Moved here in 1997. Was not here for the Walmart debate. I bet that was a real donny-brook. I have lived in 10 towns and cities in five states since I was 18 years old. The power structure in Steamboat is the most anti- new business that I have ever seen anywhere I have lived and Steamboat is the most regulated town I have ever seen. The power structure constantly complains about people going to Craig or Silverthorne to shop yet they do everything they can do to prevent an enlarged Walmart, a new Target, a new Walgreens or any other "big box store". The power structure has one meeting a week to develop economic activity. A new store being built and opened would not provide new jobs? Local businesses that are well managed and find a niche will survive. F.M. Light has done it for 106 years. It is a good thing Safeway and City Market were built years ago. In todays climate I doubt that either could be built and we would all buy our groceries in a 5,000 foot store.

0

JustSomeJoe 3 years, 7 months ago

What sort of economic benefit will Steamboat reap by allowing a Walgreens to be built here? Perhaps a short term boon to the contractors building the store, but Steamboat is already full of existing stores that will carry nearly every item a Walgreens will carry. There will be nothing unique or necessary about the items a Walgreens will sell in this community.

Need a Pharmacy - try supporting Lyon's Drug, the only locally owned pharmacy in the area, great hours, friendly service and the same prescription prices as the chains. Need to spend your money at a big chain instead of with locals for your prescriptions? Try the existing Safeway, City Market and Walmart pharmacies, all within walking distance to the proposed Walgreens location. Do we really need a 4th pharmacy at that intersection? Need health and beauty items, first aid supplies, cough and cold remedies? Check, check, check, it's already here Planning Commission and City Council.

Is there so much demand in Steamboat for the items you can already buy at Safeway, City Market, the Dollar Store, Lyons Drug and Walmart that we need to add another big box? Sure, we will get a bump in property taxes, but sales tax revenue will basically stay the same. We aren't going to magically generate new Walgreens shoppers. They will just be the same shoppers we already have here.

Walgreens is looking for their share of the existing shopping revenue in Steamboat Springs and they will get it at the expense of the existing stores already here, with the little guy, your small business owning neighbors taking the hit so Walgreens can get its share. What do we really get out of the deal? If your life isn't complete with a chain drug store and a drive through pharmacy, try moving near the 3,000+ existing Walgreens to get your piece of today's America. Try a locally owned business instead and you will remember why you moved here or stayed here, for the community, not another big box/strip mall choice among the ones already here.

0

Zac Brennan 3 years, 7 months ago

jlc, great points. As far as definitions go..get a dictionary.

0

Powhound 3 years, 7 months ago

1999, are you aware that Walgreens sells Honey Stinger and a selection of clothing that gives a percentage back to the local schools? I say let them come and see what they can do!

0

ybul 3 years, 7 months ago

There is no reason they should not come, the only question is what impact their building has and does it meet code. The code is the code and might need revised. But to give them variances to meet their needs while foregoing the impacts that their building has on the desirability of the community, which will effect economic activity long term is foolish.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

I say only grant the variances if it is recognized that those codes are poorly written and those codes will be rewritten so that future similar projects will not require variances.

If the codes are good then keep them and expect projects to conform.

Walgreens does not fill some desperately needed services that is not already provided in SB. But free market capitalism is not about government identifying needs and projected demand in order to approve only those new businesses that government decides are appropriate. No, the capitalist system is about having investors deciding where to allocate capital and government providing a fair playing field so that the same rules apply to everyone.

0

1999 3 years, 7 months ago

so powhound..they will be selling things already available in steamboat? can't go to Bap or Ski haus or any of the hundreds of other steamboat locations for Honey Stinger?

and what clothing will they be selling that is not already available elsewhere in steamboat? I haven't heard of this "special line of clothing only available at walgreens corporations that gives money to steamboat schools"

0

JustSomeJoe 3 years, 7 months ago

Scott - The planning commission asked the developer to come back with the economic benefit of a Walgreens to the community so they can weigh the economic benefits against the variances requested. Even though this is a "capitalist" system, the planning commission is looking for ways to apply the rules differently for Walgreens if possible.

I can certainly weigh in on what I see as the benefits, or lack there of. I'm saying Walgreens don't provide any clear economic benefits that should provide them variances from our current set of codes.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

JustsomeJoe, Well, looks like this is exactly what is wrong with government. So the same government that was convinced by an economic analysis that the Iron Horse was a good deal is going to rely upon an economic analysis to decides which of SB's planning rules apply to Walgreens? So is the building permit and certificate of occupancy dependent upon the business being a Walgreens with the product lines typical of current Walgreens? What if Walgreens quits the location or merges with something like Dollar Store or a pawn store chain? Will the building then be modified to conform to the code?

Planning should stick with buildings, parking lots and landscaping while not making decisions based upon an economic analysis.

I note the economic analysis should be expected to be as worthless as an real estate appraisal during the boom because the point of the analysis is to justify the buyer's desired outcome. The people that perform these sort of economic analysis know that their business is dependent upon giving the customer the desired outcome. They are smart enough to not lie, but they pull out every possible link and claim maximum positive impact. Just like how real estate appraisals always managed to agree the purchase price was justified and appraisers that failed to do that were never hired again.

0

Scott Ford 3 years, 7 months ago

Hi JustSomeJoe -

(I am not sure which Scott your are addressing. I am simply refered to as Scott F. This just makes it easier for us who participate in the discussion.)

The key question before us is what constitutes economic benefit? Is there a clear a clear policy definition? My guess is that although it would be relatively easy to develop a simple matrix to determine benefit - none likely exist. So economic benefit is left to the discretionary and perhaps subjective judgment of the City Planning Department and the Planning Commission. Is job creation important? If so, how many? Are the type of jobs by industry sector important? Is the projected average income from these jobs important? Do any of these questions or all of them support the City's long-term economic development goals?

Since I do not think there is a systematic process in place for evaluating economic benefit, the focus becomes on trying to determine if there is a need for this type of business and/or how much potential new sales tax might be generated. These are very poor criteria by which to measure economic benefit. Who are the Planning Department, City Council or any of us to make a judgment of market need and/or whether increased competition may be detrimental to an existing business. Market forces will sort this issue out and it is no place for government intervention.

Lastly sales tax is not an economic benefit measurement. Although some will argue that it is. It is not! It is simply government revenue. Including sales tax as criteria to assess economic benefit is risky because it causes policy makers to focus more on potential dollars near term than what may be good for the community. Steamboat Springs would not be the first community that has made this mistake. Summit County has screwed up their economy by considering sales tax generation as a criteria for economic benefit and made some silly decisions. We do not need to make this mistake.

I fully realize that the Planning Department and the Planning Commission need to take the "long-view" toward any development project. I have a profound respect for the process. However, do we rank the variance requested on some type of scale? I am sure some of the variances are big things and some are little things. A scoring matrix of economic benefit can be created as well. Is there a scoring matrix for community benefit? Do the aggregate scores off-set each other?

This matrix is called a rubric. It is scoring tool for subjective assessments based on achieving a desired outcome. Teachers use them all the time because the live in an environment where the risk of subjectivity is great particularly if what is being assess is complex.

0

boater1 3 years, 7 months ago

this is simple: -will wallgreens put lyons drug out of biz? no. lyons drug has competed with wallmart, safeway & city market just fine and prospered. same prices, local service. -will wallgreen's provide some temporary local construction work and permantly hire some locals? yes -will wall greens increase sales tax revenue? proabably not . as stated people would have bought those items elsewhere anyway. -is wallgreen's gauranteed success? no. they have plenty of competition from what is really a small town to draw from.

so wallgreen's is sticking it's financial head out with the city only seeing benefits, jobs ...and what is the problem here???

0

mark bond 3 years, 7 months ago

The capitalist system is about having investors deciding where to allocate capital and government providing a fair playing field so that the same rules apply to everyone. To this I would simply add make sure the rules are minimal and truly serve the public health, safety and welfare! They should never serve some subjective goal of beauty or well-being for other business which compete.

0

snowysteamboat 3 years, 7 months ago

Show of hands. Who here with so much to say have read the applicable code sections or the staff report?

0

Loparch 3 years, 7 months ago

I am curious to find out how many of the negative respondents to this project have ever read the Steamboat's Community Development Codes or analyzed a real estate development application? If they had they would find Steamboats Codes to be the complex, confusing and irrational. Many of the codes are contradictory.

For example, in this case, the applicant is required under the CDC to have a 5 foot setback from the property line (a highway), while it is also required to have a 30 foot landscape buffer between the building and the property line. This in fact is one of the 11 variances the developer is asking for.

This project is in a Planned Unit Development area PUD. The City specifically states that "The purpose of the planned unit development (PUD) is to provide flexibility from the strict application of certain standards of this CDC...." If the City is not willing to be flexible why have a PUD?

I am in favor of the project. Walgreens is an excellent retailer and will provide an increase in marginal sales and real estate taxes. The building is attractive and will be a catalyst for further development at this site.

For those against the project, I would like to ask them, how they expect to pay for the ever increasing costs of City services they demand? Are they open to an increase in property taxes on their homes or should the City increase the With cost and demand for City services ever increasing, how do residents expect to pay for the services? Would they be open to an increase in the property taxes on their homes or should the City increase the use and sales Taxes? The money has to come from somewhere.

If the City does not approve the project, it will send a clear message that is really is not serious about Economic Development.

0

snowysteamboat 3 years, 7 months ago

Lo-

You are incorrect. The urban design standards explicitly match the required landscaping to the proposed setback. The variance is because the applicant has proposed to place the back-ass of the building facing towards highway 40 and cannot screen the loading dock and dumpster

The city does not collect a property tax so this won't help out there.

There are ways that the building could meet the requirements, it has chosen simply not to do so.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

Scott F. I note that on two threads that you cite Summit County as having made mistakes in economic development. Can you please elaborate and specifically describe the decisions that were made and why they were mistakes?

mwb007, I would add that there is always someone arguing that whatever rules are truly serving the public health, safety and welfare. That "public welfare" can be used to justify anything. That someone can argue that a bad paint job affects the neighboring property owners or even the good mood of all shoppers in the district so thus the public welfare requires regulating paint colors.

So what is truly needed as compared to stupid meddling government is a matter of political opinion. I think where one ends up depends a lot on whether government thinks it needs to control businesses or whether businesses will generally make justifiable economic decisions.

I have some specific examples of how Oak Creek deals with economic development issues:

I expressed concerns that Oak Creek's comprehensive plan and hence updated land use regulations stated that first floor of buildings along Main St were reserved for retail. I think with all of the vacancies and abysmal commercial rent that such policies are effectively a no growth policy until commercial property values triple. But if apt rents increased by about 50% then apts could be justified and Town could specify that first floor apts had to be designed so that they could easily be converted to retail (normally retail space along a Main St is a scarce resource and is thus more valuable than residential). I had a discussion with a leading member of South Routt EDC where he made it clear that he did not trust that the apt owner would ever switch to commercial use. So he would rather have vacant lots along Main St until, if ever, it became worthwhile to build retail.

Oak Creek's comprehensive plan also demonstrates where economic development knowledge needs to be included as part of the process. OC's comp plan is completely devoid of economic realities or considerations. There is absolutely no reason given to justify why OC could be expected to support 3 blocks of a pedestrian retail shopping district, but that is in the comp plan and becoming the land use code. In fact, some of the most basic publicly available data such as CDOT vehicle trips shows that OC has a fraction of the people passing by as Hayden.

Also, I considered selling coal in Oak Creek so that South Routt citizens didn't have to go to Craig to get coal. So I discussed it in a pre application meeting with the Oak Creek planning board. They had reasonable concerns of making sure dust, traffic and issues that can be seen as having clear impacts on neighbors would be addressed in any application. But they also discussed the concept of selling coal when it is town policy to discourage burning coal. And thus that selling coal was also a discouraged business activity. So that was the end of that.

0

bill schurman 3 years, 7 months ago

Actually when (and if my house sells) I'm out of here and you folks can have the big city stores and traffic. I will miss Allen's and Lyon's. But to the rest to you who wish to destroy this valley in the name of greed "see 'ya".

0

sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

1999, What do YOU offer that we "cant already get at least two-fold here is Steamboat"?? Why is that anyones business but Walgreens.

Mr Schurman, There is a price at which all things (including your house) will sell. Maybe you are asking too much. Does this mean you are "greedy"?

0

sledneck 3 years, 7 months ago

It's not greed when YOU want the most for whats yours but when the rest of the community does the same thing (especially on a commercial level) it's wrong.

You should lower the price of your home to "affordable" levels so that someone can attain housing in this "greedy valley". If you don't I think it means you are "greedy".

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

Mr Schurman, So why is developing a lot that has always been zoned for retail destroying this valley in the name of greed?

0

bill schurman 3 years, 7 months ago

Scott and sledneck,

Been around in this valley long ?? I doubt it. All that has happened is the "white shoe boys" coming over the pass and BUILD, BUILD, BUILD and to hell with what's right with this town. Soon the developers will buy the government and BUILD wherever. Hey, how about a super Wal-Mart and other big box stores out in Pleasant Valley?? Why not return to the overgrown sprawl that you came from ?? You may not recall Silverthorne as a one gas station town. Now look at the mess they have going for themselves.

0

pitpoodle 3 years, 7 months ago

Hooray for you expublic. This council has already proven they love development good or bad. Remember SB 700? There are only dollar signs in their eyes even when the sales tax revenue would be minimal -- built it anyway. We live here for a reason. Our reasons are valid Do not try to make Steamboat like Silverthorne, or a Denver suburb or Anytown USA where they came from. If Scott and Sledneck don't or can't appreciate this great community as it is - then leave. Oh yeah, in the interest of civility, leave please.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 7 months ago

When a parcel well within city limits that has been zoned for commercial retail use for decades then it is hardly destroying the region with sprawl. I did not realize Pleasant Valley included the intersection of Lincoln and Pine Grove. I did not realize that it was wrong for this town to have retail at that corner. For the record, I am not at all convinced that Walgreens should be granted variances for their building and I am opposed to the idea of giving them variances based upon some claimed economic activity from the store.

Mr Schurman, Maybe you would be happier if you lived in Oak Creek. There is virtually no traffic - according to CDOT traffic analysis it is about as busy as Maybell. There is virtually no construction activity and with all the vacant lots, vacant commercial space and vacant houses, there is no pressure to grow. You won't have to worry about chain stores, developers or boys wearing white shoes.

It is extremely unlikely that SB will return to anything like a one gas station town like the old Silverthorn that you seem to admire. In fact, Oak Creek does have only one gas station and the owner says that it could be closing.

OC sounds perfect for you.

0

pitpoodle 3 years, 7 months ago

Scott W says, "I am not at all convinced that Walgreens should be granted variances for their building and I am opposed to the idea of giving them variances based upon some claimed economic activity from the store". Hey, changing your tune? I agree with you but what about the freedom thing?

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.