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Thread: This ought to shock and outrage any idealistic planner

  1. #1

    This ought to shock and outrage any idealistic planner

    Gee, I don't know which is worse in this case. Wal-Mart or the intellectually bankrupt planners and zoners who are reshaping their zoning ordinances specifically to accommodate Wal-Mart.


    Town rewriting law for Wal-Mart

    Planners allowed the developers to recommend changes that developers say will improve the store's ability to function. Those changes also helped to shape the town's zoning ordinance...

    ....In Mocksville's case, Gallimore asked developers to help revise the town's zoning ordinance so it can be used by other big-box developments that enter the town.
    Last edited by Super Amputee Cat; 07 Jul 2004 at 2:17 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I am not so shocked....am I becoming jaded?

    If the elected officials of this community want to throw away good design for easy tax dollars... then let them have it. Easy tax money is hard to resist, but throwing away codes designed to enhance community character, increase pedestrian saftey and create better designed properties is a high price for that money.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    I am not so shocked....am I becoming jaded?

    If the elected officials of this community want to throw away good design for easy tax dollars... then let them have it. Easy tax money is hard to resist, but throwing away codes designed to enhance community character, increase pedestrian saftey and create better designed properties is a high price for that money.
    Yeah, I have to admit; I wasn't really all that shocked myself. Outraged, yes, but hardly shocked at all anymore by such activity, which, on some scale or another is occurring 100s of times weekly across the U. S.

    Still, it's a lot more disheartening to think that actual planners may be privy to such corruption. You expect this kind of crap from some stupid politician (or even the local zoning board, which, in 90% of towns will no doubt flip-flop like a fish on zoning issues to suit some fatcat developer). But a planner? Maybe I'm naive but I thought many went to school to stop this kind of backwards a$s, and thoroughly wasteful types of land misuse.

    What I wonder is this: Were these planners once wide-eyed, dreamers that thought they could change the world (or at least their town) and just became jaded over the years by having their master plan being overriden by the city administration so many times. An administration that was only too happy to throw out the master plan or do whatever to suck up to some big-box out of town mall developer?

    Or were these planners just in it for the almighty dollar themselves all along?

    Like any other profession, I suppose that the planning sector has its fair share of goofballs, idiots, and suck-ups that somehow managed to slip through the system. What's disheartening is that I always thought it was such a miniscule percentage. But with cases like this, one has to wonder how far into the planning profession this kind of sleaze, corruption, and corporate schmoozing actually does reach.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    I'm not shocked either.

    The reality is that many communities welcome big box retailers with open arms without giving a thought about design, traffic, economic impact, community character or any of the numerous other factors that often come into play.

    Sadly, sometimes local elected officials don't even know their constituents are concerned about such things until after the decisions have been made.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  5. #5
    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    I'm not shocked either.

    The reality is that many communities welcome big box retailers with open arms without giving a thought about design, traffic, economic impact, community character or any of the numerous other factors that often come into play.

    Sadly, sometimes local elected officials don't even know their constituents are concerned about such things until after the decisions have been made.
    And Wal-Mart is probably counting on it to be that way in every single community that they try and shoehorn their Superstore Centers. I speculate that the same people whose brains are so addled by watching Wal-Mart propaganda on TV (among all the Reality TV and brain dead sitcoms) each night are the ones making the planning and political decisions in Wal-Mart's favor in City Hall the next day.

    It would be interesting to see the demographics of Wal-Mart commercials in markets that they are setting their sights on or are trying to shore up their market share. I'm willing to bet there was a slew of commercials on some of the big TV stations in the weeks leading up to this decision in Mocksville.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    "The proposed changes to the zoning ordinance include increasing the dimensions of free-standing signs from 32 square feet to a maximum of 300 square feet. Those changes would also increase sign height from 4 feet to 15 feet, move the parking area to front Highway 601 instead of Interstate 40, allow for outdoor storage and ease facade requirements and parking-lot design standards."



    Sorry to say it, but before I started reading the article, I figured this had to be in the rural south. Winston-Salem makes sense - not all that urban, and growing. I picture this city as a suburb with no retail core, so it is going after whatever it can get and not worrying about impacts to other businesses or communities. Unfortunately, it is setting itself up to be an undesirable "no-place." There is no way I would work there, much less choose to live in such a city.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SAC
    You expect this kind of crap from some stupid politician (or even the local zoning board, which, in 90% of towns will no doubt flip-flop like a fish on zoning issues to suit some fatcat developer). But a planner?
    SAC, the politician probably routed specific information to the planning department. Obviously, the community had strong standards before and the changes are only being made to accomodate the new big-box.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus
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    "though the planning staff recommended that the board deny four of the seven proposed changes."
    The article did not do a good job listing which one the staff were against.

    "Planners can get blinded by the relationship with developers and forget about the people's wishes."
    I hope that I am not that blind
    Oddball
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    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
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  9. #9
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Ok, here I go again.......

    Where does it say there was corruption involved? This community wants to be a retail center, and like Cardinal said it went for it. As planners we cannot take the high and mighty road and deny our employers and communities wishes just because we hate big boxes.

    So they changed some things to make things easier for a developer. This stuff happens all the time. If some developer comes in with some new urbanist, conservation sub-division plan, and zoning was changed to make it work, you all would be putting it in with "best practices".

    It is not up to us to make these decisions, that is up to the elected officials. You can bet if the majority of the towns folk were against it, or even a vocal minority, things would have been different.

    /rant
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  10. #10
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I've seen this happen before in California... it's happening all over actually. Cities want the tax dollars, so the city councils make it happen anyway they can.

  11. #11
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    Ok, here I go again.......

    Where does it say there was corruption involved? This community wants to be a retail center, and like Cardinal said it went for it. As planners we cannot take the high and mighty road and deny our employers and communities wishes just because we hate big boxes.

    So they changed some things to make things easier for a developer. This stuff happens all the time. If some developer comes in with some new urbanist, conservation sub-division plan, and zoning was changed to make it work, you all would be putting it in with "best practices".

    It is not up to us to make these decisions, that is up to the elected officials. You can bet if the majority of the towns folk were against it, or even a vocal minority, things would have been different.

    /rant
    As usual, very well put giff. Still....I'm glad the elected officials in my town are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  12. #12

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    I agree with giff. Not all design standards are that firmly based, anyway. (Although, the huge sign now permitted is a serious red flag to me )

  13. #13
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    As usual, very well put giff. Still....I'm glad the elected officials in my town are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

    And that is fine. Many communities have a lot to lose by allowing big boxes. If the folks don't want them, then planners and elected officials should fight to keep them out. I know if someone showed up and wanted to add big bucks to my tax base, I would be remiss in my duties not to try and land them. I have old folks paying higher and higher taxes because we have little commercial tax base. Landing a big box would help everyone out. Sometimes we have to look past our personal preferences and idealism and do what is best for our communites, whether we like it or not.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  14. #14
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    And that is fine. Many communities have a lot to lose by allowing big boxes. If the folks don't want them, then planners and elected officials should fight to keep them out. I know if someone showed up and wanted to add big bucks to my tax base, I would be remiss in my duties not to try and land them. I have old folks paying higher and higher taxes because we have little commercial tax base. Landing a big box would help everyone out. Sometimes we have to look past our personal preferences and idealism and do what is best for our communites, whether we like it or not.
    In the article, more than wanting big boxes or not wanting them was on the table for the community. There is the risk of loosing rather strict design codes to lower development costs. I know the sq ft cap was adjusted for the big-box, but design standards alone do not prohibit big-box development. I just feel this may have been a step backwards for the community that had established certain requirements for the area.

    You should work to land the tax generator if your populace demands it. However, I don't believe you should trade community character or development standards in the way the article indicates to get the tax money. Giff I've rarely seen an instance where residential tax burden was signficantly lowered in a rural small town when a big box came to town. I'm happy for you and your residents if this is something that would happen in your community. Taxes go up, but the don't often come down.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Not an unexpected situation. These communities need to say "no" to Walmart. It isn't like Walmart is going to say "well, then we are going to take our ball and play somewhere else!" They have invested a lot of time and money researching the proper location. They realize the location is going to bring them oodles of money, but they want a better deal.

    Communities need to tell them, "Look, we would love you to locate here. We know you want to locate here. But this is our community and we have set up these standards to benefit our way of life. We will work with you to help you create a facility that will benefit WalMart and our town, but you must fit in with our community's plan.Welcome to (insert name of town) and we hope you have a nice day."

  16. #16
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    And that is fine. Many communities have a lot to lose by allowing big boxes. If the folks don't want them, then planners and elected officials should fight to keep them out. I know if someone showed up and wanted to add big bucks to my tax base, I would be remiss in my duties not to try and land them. I have old folks paying higher and higher taxes because we have little commercial tax base. Landing a big box would help everyone out. Sometimes we have to look past our personal preferences and idealism and do what is best for our communites, whether we like it or not.
    Again, well put.

    In NH, where property taxes rule, and there are no sales taxes, big boxes do not tend to generate the kind of tax windfall that many expect, given the type and nature of services that they require. Light industrial development gives us the most bang for our economic development buck. We don't ban big boxes....there are places they are appropriate, and where they're not, we have building size limits in place in an overlay district approach.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  17. #17
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    In Iowa, commerical properties pay a pretty high property tax, so it would pay out here if a community doesn't give away too many tax breaks. It would lower the taxes for the residental property. Often times though, the community will look at the new taxes as a windfall and spend it, thus the experience reported by Boiker.

    Even if this community gave up high standards for lower ones, it is the planners job to sell the consiquences, and after that if the folks still want the less stringent regs, who are we to argue.

    If you are in certain situations as a community, Walmart could very well build in the town next door with lower standards. If that happens, you still get the negative effects on your existing buisnesses and none of the tax benefits.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  18. #18
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    Ok, here I go again.......

    Where does it say there was corruption involved? This community wants to be a retail center, and like Cardinal said it went for it. As planners we cannot take the high and mighty road and deny our employers and communities wishes just because we hate big boxes.

    So they changed some things to make things easier for a developer. This stuff happens all the time. If some developer comes in with some new urbanist, conservation sub-division plan, and zoning was changed to make it work, you all would be putting it in with "best practices".

    It is not up to us to make these decisions, that is up to the elected officials. You can bet if the majority of the towns folk were against it, or even a vocal minority, things would have been different.

    /rant
    Amen!

    If the community is dead-set on allowing this type of development, staff planners should honor that request. However, the planners should be wielding their powers of persuasion a little stronger. They need to ask the elected officials the tough questions to at least make them think about what they are doing and how it will impact the future. When it comes to policy, that's the best we can do--encourage the officials to go a certain direction, but when push comes to shove, what the public wants the public gets.

    It's sad to know that you could replace the name of the town with almost any other suburban town in the south. Walmart would probably have located there anyway, but just wanted to take a shortcut to get there. The city was probably scared of losing the precious tax money.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    ....In Mocksville's case,
    What a name! I mean what a mockery.

    But then who's driving the market? And isn't the market driving the type of economy and the development?

    Is it that this town is really small and has to do such a thing when large companies want to setup projects?
    Would this be possible in larger towns and cities?

    I think if its a poltical decision then it can be argued and opposed through the public opinion. But my experince says that if the decision is on economic grounds then theres nothing much that can be done and it can be safely said that Mocksville'e time has come. Its too strong a force.
    Last edited by Doitnow!!; 07 Jul 2004 at 2:47 PM.
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    In Iowa, commerical properties pay a pretty high property tax, so it would pay out here if a community doesn't give away too many tax breaks. It would lower the taxes for the residental property. Often times though, the community will look at the new taxes as a windfall and spend it, thus the experience reported by Boiker.

    Even if this community gave up high standards for lower ones, it is the planners job to sell the consiquences, and after that if the folks still want the less stringent regs, who are we to argue.

    If you are in certain situations as a community, Walmart could very well build in the town next door with lower standards. If that happens, you still get the negative effects on your existing buisnesses and none of the tax benefits.
    I'll agree on all three points. This is what makes it so darn difficult to do our jobs the way we would like to do them.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    I am not in the least bit shocked. Code is re-written and changed in the name of “big” or “economic” development on a daily basis all across this country.

    How many places have codes for theme parks?? How many places would alter their code to get a theme park??

    How many places would alter their code to get a corporate HQ?? Or maybe a new factory to replace the one that just left??

    Now Wally World is no theme park (yes that would be a pun), HQ or job factory but I guess you grab at what you can reach.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    The thing that gets me is that they re-wrote their ordinance to allow the store. Why not just get a variance? Why re-write the whole code? Seems like a bad precedent to set, plus they lost more control that way over that development and incoming developments.
    I don't dream. I plan.

  23. #23
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Plannerbabs
    The thing that gets me is that they re-wrote their ordinance to allow the store. Why not just get a variance? Why re-write the whole code? Seems like a bad precedent to set, plus they lost more control that way over that development and incoming developments.

    Because it was not just one box they wanted. The wanted to make the way clear for several of them.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  24. #24
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    I have to admit, I am a planner, I hate wal~mart and despise the people who do their consulting, that was asked to and did rewrite sections of our zoning by-law to facilitate big box development and associated outpad development.

    While what we wrote did cater to the bastards, it still provided for public safety, landscaping, limits on the location of signs and other items. I was also able to sneak in a few things related to the location and screening of garbage, creating clear traffic corridors in huge parking lots and creating driveways of suitable widths.

    In response to plannerbabs, if the same variance is requested over and over again, and you know it is going to be granted and requested again, why not change the rules to reflect the reality of the community? I wish we could do that here for other items. Come on a Community Plan that is 7 years old that is going on 70 amendments. Which is worse, addressing the issue up front or piecemeal revisions? I know which one I prefer.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Granted, an ordinance that requires that many variances obviously needs to be looked at again. It's probably up for at least some revision. But it just seems like [idealistic naive planner] that the impetus for revision should come from the Board, the planners, and the community, and not from corporate request to allow more of their standard development. Piecemeal revision like that isn't going to help the community in the long run. [/idealistic naive planner].
    I don't dream. I plan.

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