Elk Grove Tightens, Refines Big Box Retail Ordinance

After several months of deliberation and wrangling, the Elk Grove City Council unanimously approved changes to the city's big-box retail...

After several months of deliberation and wrangling, the Elk Grove City Council unanimously approved changes to the city's big-box retailer ordinance at last night's regular meeting. The changes to the city's Municipal Code 23 that regulates the location of big-box retailers in Elk Grove came as a result of loophole that was discovered last spring.

The controversy stems from Wal Mart's request to build a so-called Super Center on Bruceville Road on a site that originally had been approved for a Target store. Last spring it was discovered that Wal Mart was attempting to exploit a loophole that was inserted into the ordinance.

Wal Mart could have requested a new CUP (conditional use permit) that would have given them the ability to bypass requirement of the 2007 big box ordinance. Wal Mart’s proposed store is less than 100,000 square feet and would have not been subject to the conditions of the big box ordinance.

After the city council placed a moratorium on the approval of any large retail permit last June and referred it back to the Planning Commission for further review, the city council decided last night to simplify the classifications. The biggest change was to make the retail general small format, retailers under 75,000 sq. ft. with less than 50 percent of floor space dedicated to non-taxable items (primarily grocery items), subject to the the conditional use permit process.

The council also made once other change to the ordinance based on input from Elk Grove resident Peter Gaffney. A resident of the nearby Glenbrooke neighborhood, Gaffney has been at the forefront of efforts thwarting Wal Mart's efforts to locate its store in a residential area.

Gaffney's suggestion that was incorporated into the ordinance expanded the classification of the retail superstore to stores with 75,000 to 149,999 sq. ft., that have more than 10 percent dedicated to non-taxable goods. Stores in this size category with more than 10 percent dedicated to non-taxable goods are now classified as retail superstores.

Although the council unanimously approved the change, Councilman Pat Hume expressed concern that the further tightening of the conditional use permit requirement might discourage non-grocery retailers, such as furniture store, from locating in the city.

"C-U-P is more than just three letters. I don't see the need for it," Hume said. "I'll go along with this but I am going to watch what the word on the street is."

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