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March 10, 2005

February 10, 2005: Detail


Big Box Retail Forum

The Keystone Center    November 10, 2005

The focus of the meeting, hosted by the non profit organization “Our Future Summit”, was to identify questions and concerns regarding the existence and development of “big box” retail providers in Summit County, Colorado.   The discussion took place within the context of impending decisions regarding certain big box retail in the region. However, the focus of this meeting was not on any particular retailer or planning decision, but rather to answer the question: “How should Summit County and its communities address land use, economic development decisions in the most strategic, mutually beneficial way?”

Through the discussion it became clear that decisions regarding “big box” retail are complicated and present real challenges for communities and regions. The discussions also reflected the many different values and priorities regarding how and what land use decisions are made.  The full costs and benefits of such retail providers are difficult to calculate accurately and precisely. The fact that local revenue is derived largely from sales tax revenue remains an influential factor in local land use decisions.  

Though reaching agreement was not the focus of the meeting, there was some agreement among those present that:

-         Land use and economic decisions made in one Summit County community effect surrounding and neighboring communities.

-         Further discussion is needed to identify strategies to make the most of land use and economic decisions

Meeting Goals:

-         Define issues of concern and key questions regarding “big box” retail in Summit County

-         Identify potential options or strategy to address land use and economic decisions regarding “big box” retail in Summit County


Participants briefly detailed the benefits and concerns with big box retail and then developed potential strategies to address. Many questions were captured during the discussion that reflected some of the key issues that any solution or dialogue need to address.

 Benefits of Big Box retail providers

-         Sales Tax Revenue

-         Competition results in lower prices for goods

-         Proximity of goods

-         Salaries and Benefits for employees

-         Greater choice for goods

-         Draws customers and commerce to region (indirectly helping other businesses)

Concerns about Big Box retail providers

-         Imbalance between the level of economic incentives and infrastructure by communities for the returns to community coffers (too much for too little).

-         Effects on limited affordable housing stock

-         Calculations of costs and benefits of big box retail do not consider “full costs” or “externalities”; are unclear and hard to quantify.

-         Increased wildlife impacts from increased development

-         Land Use Opportunity Costs: big box precluding other creative and future land use planning options

-         Uncertainty about the actual boost to local sales tax revenue (may not be as great as predicted)

-         Out of character, aesthetically/architecturally with surrounding region and local communities. The architecture and style is “too big”

-         Uneven competition with local businesses

-         Uniform products and goods selection of lower quality and not actually less expensive

-         Increased automobile traffic from the big stores, resulting also in a decrease in air quality

-         Impersonal service

-         Profits exported outside the community and region to corporate headquarters

Potential Strategies:

-         Develop a “visioning” forum to consider future planning, land use and economic decision making in Summit County. This forum can borrow from and build on the work of “Our Future Summit”.

-         Examine options for shared decision making across and among jurisdictions

o       Revenue sharing

o       Regional strategy when negotiating with retail providers (as opposed to retail providers encouraging localities to compete for their stores)

o       Develop a Mountain Economic District

 Key Questions Identified:

-         What is the vision for Summit County; what does want Summit County to be?  How will the different communities in Summit County be acknowledged and honored?

-         How can the best information be collected for calculating the full costs and benefits of certain land use and economic development decisions?

-         How can Summit County jurisdictions and Communities make land use and economic development decisions that are mutually beneficial?

-         Are there other revenue options besides sales tax; other options than big box retail?

-         What exactly is the nature and scope of local land use controls?

 Full list of Questions regarding Big Box retail:

-         How can complete and accurate information be collected about the costs and benefits retail providers?

-         How can communities come together such that planning and economic development decisions are mutually beneficial and binding?

-         How does the transient nature of some Summit County population effect land use and economic development decision making?

-         How much is enough convenience from big box retail?

-         What type of community and landscape are Summit County residents and jurisdictions looking for, rural, resort or urban? How can differences be reconciled?

-         Is sales tax the best source of local revenue?

-         What have other areas done when facing similar questions?

-         How to move beyond competition among local jurisdictions for sales tax revenue?

-         Are there existing models or examples of areas that are making land use and economic development decisions collaboratively?

-         How do jurisdiction’s land use decisions affect other communities in Summit County?

-         How successful are “joint master plans” as a collaborative planning tool?

-         How to identify big box “myths” vs. “truths”?

-         How can Summit County develop a unified consumer voice?

-         How can planning information and decisions be more accessible to the public?

-         Who decides on region-wide issues?