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Revisiting big box ban comes with its own hurdles
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The issue of big box stores is returning to Turlock like a zombie climbing out of the grave – it’s slow, kind of clumsy and has the potential to eat your brain. Well, the brain eating part might not be accurate, but it is a convoluted issue that at least has the potential to cause a few headaches around City Hall.The discussion isn’t whether Turlock should rescind the big box ban …yet. That will come later. At issue now is how the city can revisit the issue and get the discussion going again, which is where it gets convoluted.In 2004 the City Council passed a “big box” ordinance that prohibited any retail stores of more than 100,000 square feet from allocating more than 5 percent of the floor space to non-taxable merchandise, such as groceries. While not outright targeting Wal-Mart, the ordinance put a halt to the retailer’s plans of constructing a Super Center on Countryside Drive, between Fulkerth Road and Monte Vista Avenue. In the aftermath, Wal-Mart filed a lawsuit claiming the city had wrongfully barred them from building their project. The two sides squabbled against one another in legal wranglings and in courtrooms until the city finally emerged victorious two years later.That ordinance was crafted so well that the current City Council finds itself having to jump through some pretty large hoops to get the issue back in discussion.To be able to revisit the issue the council has two options to consider. They can explore the option of designating areas as “regional commercial” use in the General Plan update. This is an unused zoning designation that would allow specific areas be opened up for large-scale shopping centers, such as those of a big box store or a factory outlet.The second option is to alter the zoning ordinance by amending the definition of a discount store.The first option is cost effective but time consuming. The second option can be done on a quicker timeline, but could be more expensive because an economic specialist and outside legal counsel would need to be included.At Tuesday’s meeting the City Council heard the components of both options, but could take no action because the item was put on the agenda as discussion only. City staff was directed to return in a few weeks time with more specific options that the council could then discuss.To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.