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Board Votes for ‘Big Box’ Restrictions

by ARLnow.com | October 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm | 2,995 views | 114 Comments

Walmart, Target and other large format retailers are going to need to get County Board approval should they ever want to build a store in Arlington.

On Saturday the board unanimously approved a change to the county’s zoning ordinance that will require new “big box” retail stores to seek a Special Exception Use Permit. Before that, a large retailer could have theoretically built a store in certain areas on a “by right” basis, without the need to obtain board approval.

The amendment will apply to retail stores with a gross floor area of 50,000 square feet or more on any level, or stores with 200 more more dedicated parking spaces. Car dealerships were exempted from the rule.

“With the Board’s action, [large format retail] developments will only be built in Arlington after the community has an opportunity to review potential negative impacts and determine the appropriate conditions to mitigate those negative impacts,” Arlington County said in a press release.

ARLnow.com was the first to report that the board acted to make the zoning change after a developer, working on behalf of Walmart, started expressing interest in an industrial site near Shirlington. County staff warned that “big box” stores like Walmart could generate four times the amount of local road traffic as a similar-sized office building or hotel.

“This isn’t to impede someone from setting up shop if they want to do business here,” board member Walter Tejada said during Saturday’s board meeting. “It’s really saying that we should have a dialog, that there should be a process in which we can address any potential negative impacts to neighborhoods.

“By putting this in place we at least create for ourselves the opportunity to enter the conversation,” added County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes.

Board member Jay Fisette noted that many other localities have similar rules already in place.

“We’re not breaking new ground,” he said. “This has been done all over the country, it has been done all over the region. We’re in fact the last major jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to take a similar action.”

Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said economic conditions only recently started making Arlington attractive to large format retailers.

“I think perhaps the reason it came last here is because we don’t have as many of those big pieces of land — the targets of that sort of thing,” Zimmerman said.

“I didn’t mean a pun there, I promise,” he added.

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  • Aaron

    This isn’t to impede someone from setting up shop if they want to do business here, but they’ve got to be aware there are certain motions to go through and groups that need to be appeased, if you know what I mean. South Arlington could use a new Artisphere and maybe some CaBi stations too.

    • Thes

      I certainly hope any new big box store in Arlington DOES have a Capital Bikeshare station out in front of it. That would ensure it was best serving the local neighborhood and reducing auto dependence. At what would likely be the “cost” of two or three foregone parking spaces, a big box could become a more responsible member of the community. Of course, it would be even better if they devoted part of their building to civic, cultural or arts incubation, as have other site plan developers throughout Arlington.

      ‘Grats to the County Board for ensuring big box contributes to the community on the same terms as other landowners.

      • TGEoA

        Unless you’re a car dealer. As anti-car as the CB are, this is surprising. Oh wait, follow the money.

      • ShirliMan

        How would you carry all your purchases while riding a bike? Most people would not bother going into a big box store for 1 or 2 small items.

        • Thes

          They would if they could bike there…

          • TGEoA

            CABI sucks. Get your own bike.

      • Josh S

        Thes, are you on some sort of mission to destroy the English language?

        “Olds” and “‘Grats” are not words. I’ve never heard anyone besides you use either one of them. Give them up, please.

        • drax

          Half the words you use each day were once new words. Get over it, grandpa, English is great because it is constantly changing.

          • Josh S

            Actually, all the words I use each day were once new words.

            Please make a coherent argument why “English is great because it is constantly changing.” Just cause you heard one of your professors say that one time doesn’t mean it means much.

            I think you should have just left the “great” part out. Yes, English is constantly changing. But some of the changes sort of make sense because our reality changes and therefore we need new words to address that. The verb “to text” for example. But in other instances people play fast and loose in an attempt to be “hip” and “modern” and “rebellious” and “counter-culture”
            and end up spouting verbal manure like “olds” and “‘grats”, neither of which are filling a void in our reality or providing an additional layer of precision or color to our communication. Instead, they’re just dumb. They practically ooze with immature attempts at creativity and should simply be left to rot in the corner along with things like freshmen poetry and the obligatory close-up self portrait photographs.

            Sonny.

  • JimPB

    Specifically, which local jurisdictions have such restrictions, and exactly what are their provisions?

  • Johnny Utah

    probably a good idea. You been to the Costco in pentagon city? That place is a nightmare.

    • Arlington, Northside

      When it wasa first opened, that Costco was a pleasure to visit. Just the last ten years, the astronomical growth/recovery of South Arlington has turned it into the crowd that it is. It would have been great for them to have built another one in Merrifield when they had the chance, to pull some of the Falls Church customers, or maybe one down on Rt. 1 south of Alexandria.

      • Ali

        They have BJs in both Alexandria and Falls Church.

        • sitruc

          True, but Arlington, Northside wants a place to shop.

          • Josh S

            Not to point out the obvious, but the existing BJs is farther north than the proposed Walmart.

    • CW

      Go after 7 PM on a weeknight; it’s fine then.

      While I am all for smart growth, transit-centric communities, etc., I am somewhat suspicious about the whole aspect involving the fear of increased traffic. The people who would be visiting these establishments more than likely already live in the area. You wouldn’t get people coming from Woodbridge to go to Wal-Mart…because they already have one. Right now, you have everyone who lives here (Arlington) dispersing and more than likely driving to other jurisdictions to go to these same types of stores anyhow. Moreover, any piece of land remaining in this area that could be big enough to harbor one of these sites is more than likely ex-industrial and thus located in an out-of-the-way area and also designed to handle decent traffic loads. Finally, I wonder if the traffic influx due to a single big-box store would really be that much greater than the traffic brought by a similar acreage of more “preferrable” development (apartments w/ground floor retail, etc.)? Clarendon Boulevard is as busy as any wal-mart parking lot I’ve ever been in.

      I’m all for preserving the character of areas and also a certain amount of protectionism for small local businesses. But I also believe that, with a little thinking here and there, everyone can coexist. That said, this is pretty much what the restrictions amount to – they’re not an outright ban, just a measure of control placed by the county. Hopefully the county uses some logic and reason when exercising that control and evaluating proposals.

      • Arlingtonienne

        I know this topic has drawn a lot of heated debate, and certainly Walmart specifically is part of the problem (something tells me if Wegman’s was eyeing the spot people would suddenly have no concerns about the traffic impact), but I am sad (as a Shirlington resident) to realize that this consigns us to yet more vacant, eyesore, industrial space. You’re dead on that the Walmart wouldn’t draw people from Woodbridge or Manassas, and I also believe it would be a boost to local tax revenue. There are lots of things I don’t love about Walmart, but increasingly in the present economic reality I find that my family needs to shop there for some household items, which means spending my dollars outside Arlington, which I also don’t love.

        • John Fontain

          ” I also believe it would be a boost to local tax revenue”

          Yes indeed. The average WalMart sells about $68 million of goods each year. Arlington County resident’s sales tax dollars would stay in the county instead of going to neighboring Fairfax and Alexandria.

          And it would bring the county hundreds of jobs. While we’re not talking high-paying white collar jobs, there are plenty of people at the lower end of the income scale who would benefit from these jobs.

          • FedUp

            Walmart is known for paying low wages, selling low quality products manufactured overseas under slave conditions, and offering hardly any employee benefits. Employees cannot afford the health insurance that Walmart offers, thus many employees end up on Medicaid that taxpayers pay for. Walmart is also known for making everyone a manager so they don’t have to pay overtime. They damage local communities. See for yourself by checking out this website.

            http://walmartwatch.org/

          • Arlingtonienne

            Look, I know they’re evil. I don’t love any of their practices. But saving money on groceries and household products is part of how I ensure MY family doesn’t end up on Medicaid or serving as a drain on AFAC’s resources. Not all of us have giant trust funds or wealthy parents to wash away our student loans/cover our mortage payments/make up for lost wages because of un and under employment…

          • yrb

            In the long run walmart makes your family worse off too. More poor people -> less demand -> economy in the tank -> your wages stagnate. ETC. Wealthy people will be ok though :)

          • Josh S

            Yeah, not many do. 1%, perhaps.

          • Arlingtonienne

            My impression is that in our area people are getting all the money to pay for their $800k houses from SOMEWHERE, sending their kids to daycare, etc. and it’s certainly not the average government and association salaries from my husband and I draw our living…I’m betting the number in Arlington is higher than 1%. And look, yrb, I took the same economics classes in college (and graduate school) that you did. I get the theory. It’s a little hard to think macro when you’re balancing your own check book, you know?

          • CW

            800k? That must be the low-rent district.

          • Josh S

            It was a reference to the Occupy Wall Street protests. I’m sure the percentage is higher in Arlington. Not intended to be an actual measurement of rich families in Arlington.

            Walmart will not solve our income inequalities.

          • drax

            So you’re saying you would go on Medicaid if you couldn’t save a few hundred dollars a year at Walmart?

            Maybe if Walmart didn’t depress wages so much, you’d make enough not to need to shop there.

          • Arlingtonienne

            It’s not hard to see that it could lead to Medicaid. Let me spell it out…I barely hang on to my job as it is…I make just enough to have it make sense for me to continue to work full time and pay for day care. We pay for daycare, a mortgage, car expenses, insurance, etc. just like every other family.

            We look for those places in our budget where we can keep spending under control. Losing control of the discretionary (groceries, laundry detergent, clothing, etc.) would mean renegotiation of the mandatory, the largest of which is daycare. So I stop working, we stop paying for daycare, but lose health insurance…and voila, Medicaid, at a minimum, for the kids.

          • John Fontain

            “Walmart is known for paying low wages”

            What is the starting pay at a local Wal Mart vs. a local Target? What are the costs of health insurance for full time, non-managerial staff at Wal Mart and Target? I’m looking forward to your presentation of hard facts regarding Wal Mart’s pay and benefits.

            “selling low quality products”

            They sell the same stuff that all of the other mass merchants sell, for the most part. Besides that, I guess you don’t believe in consumers’ freedom to choose which products they want to buy. Interesting.

          • Thes

            Just FYI, this new Arlington zoning regulation would apply to any “big box” retail operation, and does not discriminate between Target and WalMart.

          • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

            Hmmm. When I have visited WalMarts in the Northern VA area I notice they emply a fair number of ESL aliens. By working at WalMart, they are paying into the tax system. To me that beats then hanging around at the 7Eleven until someone comes to pick them up for some daily construction work and paying them under the table in cash. Maybe they are low paid, but they are taking the job and paying into our tax system.

          • Josh S

            How do you know “they” are “ESL aliens?”

          • drax

            You noticed this? How? You demanded their papers?

          • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

            On more than one, more than two, more than three….. occasions I have attempted to seek help from someone employed by WalMart who did not speak English. That would at least imply ESL. The fact that they don’t speak English leads me to the United States not being their native land.

            “They” = WalMart Josh. Read the context and stop blowharding.

      • Josh S

        Just a couple of things jump out at me. First, you speak sort of generically about “any piece of land remaining … is more than likely ex-industrial and thus located in an out-of-the-way area.” Aren’t we already clear on where the possible site is? Yes, ex-industrial but nothing is out-of-the-way in Arlington. Whether or not the roads in that part of the county are designed to handle “decent traffic loads” is debateable.
        Second, you wonder whether “the traffic influx due to a single big-box would be greater than the traffic brought by similar acreage of more “preferrable” development….” There’s no need to wonder. It’s fairly well established. It would be. Substantially so. In fact, if it wasn’t, the developer / store owner wouldn’t build it. Big boxes are designed to be very very busy.
        Finally, you mention that “the people who would be visiting these establishments more than likely already live in the area.” I guess that depends on how you define area. But again, Walmart wouldn’t be contemplating building the thing if it was going to be some sort of sleepy neighborhood place. I’m not entirely up on my local Walmart geography, but I think the next closest will be in the Mt Vernon area. I guess there will be a couple in DC to take care of that side of the river. But even if that left only customers coming from inside the Beltway in NOVA, that’s a very large customer base.

        • CW

          I certainly agree on the debatability of traffic loads, etc. And you’re right, nothing is out of the way. But in Shirlington, for example, we’re talking being quite close to 395 and to US 1. You don’t think they could make something work?

          While I agree that it of course would not be a sleepy little store, what I was saying is more along the lines of what Arlingtonienne articulated – that it would be capturing a customer base that is already traveling – just traveling to somewhere else as it stands now. The net impact, depending on where you draw the boundaries, might actually be positive (X thousand cars driving 5 miles instead of 15 miles) for both the planet and the highway system. Of course, if everything is viewed through a myopic lens of only concerning ourselves with our jurisdiction, then that’s a moot point.

          • Josh S

            Interesting points. A Walmart in Shirlington, for example, might mean fewer trips to the Costco in Pentagon City? Or fewer trips to the Walmart in Mt Vernon? Interesting.

          • SomeGuy

            I’m not a Costco member, so when I go to Walmart, I do in fact take my dollars outside the county… after traveling 10+ miles to do so.

          • Thes

            And at the same time it would start bringing to Arlington traffic from the parts of Alexandria and Fairfax that are only currently closer to the existing stores.

      • Novanglus

        I see mostly MD and DC plates at the Costco (accompanied by horrific driving: http://bit.ly/bCdJSz).

        That’s exactly what we’d see at a Shirlington Wal-Mart, too.

        But even if it were all Arl/Alex customers, they’d still need to drive there — the access road to that property is sandwiched between fenced-off industrial sites.

        • wat

          I think you may be right in that you would see lots of DC tags at a Shirlington Walmart, but certainly not more than VA tags. The VA ones just don’t stand out as much when you are expecting them there.

          Right now the closest most easily accessible Walmart I’m aware of is in Kingstowne.

          The problem with the traffic influx to Shirlington is that the exits off of 395 are not that big. I’ve been backed up getting into Shirlington as it is, I can’t imagine what this would do to traffic in and around the area, including potentially backing up onto 395 at least around the holidays

          • Ali

            There are 2 Walmarts on Route 1 – just outside the Beltway in Alexandria and Mount Vernon.

      • John Fontain

        Well said!

    • John Fontain

      “probably a good idea. You been to the Costco in pentagon city? That place is a nightmare.”

      Maybe if we had another affordable mass merchant in the county, the Costco wouldn’t be so crowded.

      Invert, always invert.

      • UnlimitedCustoms

        BJ’s is on Wilson Blvd in Arlington.

        • wat

          That is 7 Corners area, which is Falls Church, not Arlington

        • John Fontain

          BJ’s is not in Arlington County. It is just outside the boundary line.

        • SomeGuy

          Also, BJs (like Costco) requires a membership. Not a direct comparison.

          • UnlimitedCustoms

            I think you can buy at BJ’s without a membership – you pay a slight surcharge on your purchase.

          • CW

            Easy there, this is a family site.

            :)

          • Ali

            BJ’s also gives away temporary memberships like crazy.

  • Chris

    I for one will be starting a new movement, “Occupy Walmart” where I plan to go sit in Walter Tejada parking space(s) and play the bongos until he either build’s a Walmart or Russell Simmons agrees to hang out with me. If you’re going to join me, please bring funnel cake.

    • Arlington, Northside

      In!

    • RosRes

      From your other posts, it sounds like you’ll be playing the bongos all over Arlington…

      • Novanglus

        Naah, I’m sure Favola and Tejada have parking places right next to each other in the Courthouse garage. He could also occupy Zimmerman, Fisette, Hines, and O’Leary at the same time.

        And since our pro-environment board isn’t a group of hypocrites, all the spaces will be empty, right? (Favola and Hines live nearby and always walk, Fisette always bikes, and Tejada and Zimmerman always ride ART) Plenty of spaces for bongos AND Russel Simmons’ entourage! ;)

  • John Fontain

    This new restriction will apply to grocery stores as well, as most of the newly built grocery stores exceed this size threshold.

    • UnlimitedCustoms

      Ah, the law of unintended consequences.

      • Josh S

        What’s the unintended consequence?

        The new rules simply add a layer of review. They don’t prevent anything.

        • Lou

          One wonders what type of reviews and how will these reviews be analyzed and against what objective criteria will the results be measured to arrive at a yes or no condition.

          One also wonders why traditional zoning classifications are not effective enough to manage land use, and why a “Special” review and permitting process is needed for anything.

          • Josh S

            I agree with you 100% percent in wondering how the Board will possibly develop objective criteria with which to evaluate big box proposals. It’s going to be tricky.

            As far as the need to create development reviews that are more fine-grained than simple zoning classifications – I think it just comes down to having more complex interests than those that can be expressed in R-6, C-1 and the like. I’d rather government give itself time to examine all aspects of a given large development proposal than just rubber stamp it because it meets some preconcieved definition of what goes where.

          • Lou

            Can you think of any other complex development proposals that would warrant creating a special exception review process to allow the project to be built?

            Put another way, the zoning of a parcel is the first layer of decision making, telling a prospective developer what they can and can not build somewhere. But if the zoning tells them they can not build a certain project type, under what circumstances should they be allowed to go before politicians and request essentially a negotiated variance?

          • Josh S

            Zoning variances are routinely requested. In fact, it seems like ANY new building of substantial size (and many that are relatively small) involves a zoning variance hearing. The process doesn’t involve politicians until final approval at which point they usually (not always) approve the recommendation made by staff (non-politicians).

            In this case, the county has decided to pre-empt the process and automatically require review for very large retail buildings. I supose the county could have just created a new zoning category for big box. But perhaps the thinking is: a) we don’t have any property in the county at this point that we’re willing to designate big box and have done with it, but b) we’re not necessarily ready to completely BAN them (and it might be legally tricky to do so), so c) we’ll allow them to be proposed and then we can review how they might work in that particular location, and how we might work with the developer to create a solution that works for everyone.

          • Lou

            So if I want to build a deck closer to my property line than zoning says I can, will the county look more favorably on my application if I offer to pay for some public art in the park across the street?

          • Thes

            Lou, you are questioning the underpinnings of the way land use is done in every jurisdiction in the United States. Feel free to do so, but don’t claim this set-up is the fault of Arlington County. The rules for all this are found in Virginia state law and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

            And yes, if you request a variance to put your deck closer to your property line, it is quite common for a Board of Zoning Appeals (anywhere in America, including Arlington) to ask whether you have the approval of your neighbors. And it is also quite common for neighbors to allow their views to depend on whether, for example, you ever invite them over for barbeques. Or to install a sidewalk across your front yard.

          • Lou

            Well, the great thing is that if Walmart designs a 49,999 sf/floor building w/ 199 parking spaces we can just cut all this warm and fuzzy neighborhood negotiation process out of the loop. I’m glad the county was able to finally clarify their new big box restrictions.

            And where did I ever place fault with anyone?

          • Josh S

            And to your particular scenario, I’m guessing that depending on the particulars, you’d be in the clear UNLESS somebody raised an objection. In other words, you would have to work harder to convince your neighbors than county staff. Again, depending on the particulars, I think this is probably as it should be. They’re the ones who have to deal with your deck looming over the sidewalk or their back yard.

          • Thes

            @Lou 2:30 p.m.: That would be a small-box retailer.

            While you’re at it, go ask someone to justify why you can go 45 mph down Arlington Boulevard, but not 46 mph. Come back when you have the answer.

          • Lou

            If they clock me at 46, I have no recourse other than the mercy of the court should I choose to fight the ticket. Because it is codified.

            That’s why I’m glad the numbers that define a big box according to Arlington are finally defined. I guess Arlington’s definition of a big box differs from other governments around here (33% smaller than Montgomery County, for example), but that’s neither here nor there.

    • Chris Slatt

      From the board report:

      “Of the total of 19 grocery stores located in Arlington, eight (8) were built under Special Exception approval (either Use Permit or Site Plan). It is important to note that of the 11 existing by-right grocery stores in Arlington, none exceed 50,000 in total gross floor area,
      with the exception of the Costco in Pentagon City”

  • Steve

    Uh, doesn’t this seem basically a way for the county to extort money? You want that exemption? You pay up… And presuming the crooks on the board aren’t pocketing it, what will they use it for?

    • Arlingtonienne

      They extort money from developers as it is…see today’s earlier story on the new planned apartments on 50. Apparently they use the money to support the much lampooned Artisphere…

      • Thes

        At least in Arlington the community benefits negotiation is a county-wide discussion. In Montgomery County the proposal is to make big-box retailers negotiate only with their immediate neighbors for goodies.

        • Arlingtonienne

          Very good point.

        • Charlie

          Very funny.
          This has been put in place because of immediate neighbors. And NOT the good of whole county.
          And seldom is the county as a whole the discussion point instead of they are run by parochial neighborhood issues.

    • Josh S

      Get a grip, Steve. Concessions from developers are in the form of public goods – public art, paying to upgrade local intersections, promising to employ local residents, etc.

      I actually would be proud of our Board for not going the other direction and offering property tax exemptions and the like in order to attract businesses, as is so common around the country.

  • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

    I wonder why the exempt car dealerships? Because they are already that large and require that many parking spaces?

    • Josh S

      It’s a burden on local transportation systems issue. Most of the parking spaces occupied at a car dealership are occupied by the same car 24 hours a day. There aren’t nearly as many trips to and from a car dealership, despite having dozens or hundreds of parking spaces, as there are to a big box retailer.

      • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

        True. Unless the car dealership is of the size of the CarMax in Dulles. Have you seen that place?

        • Josh S

          Yes, I bought my car there. It is definitely a behemoth. Scary big.

  • http://www.arlnow.com Lauren

    in this case, I’m actually glad – Shirlington (and most parts of Arlington) are not really able to handle something as big as a WM.

    I love WM, but was not happy about a store so close to residential areas.

  • JimPB

    Parking, Convenience and Competition

    We’ve gone a lot to the Costco at Pentagon City. Yes, the parking lot is usually well occupied, BUT we’ve always found a parking place within a few minutes. The parking lots at the other Costco’s in the area at which we’ve shopped — Fairfax, College Park (MD) and Gaithersburg (MD) — are similarly busy, but are larger and are only for Costco. But convenience rules, so we do our Costco shopping mostly at the Pentagon City warehouse.

    Competition that brought even greater convenience has sharply diminished our visits to Costco: the new (albeit smaller than the usual warehouse) BJ’s in the City of Falls Church now gets much of the business that we previously did with Costco and with the equally convenient Safeway.

    Viva competition — the more the better for the customer.

    P.S. Unlike many of the sites for its warehouses, I understand that Costco leaves its space in Pentagon City and will be losing it in a year or two for new construction. True???? If so, what plans might Costco have for a replacement?

    • Arlingtonienne

      I would be really surprised to hear Costco is leaving that space. It’s their top grossing store in the country…

      • CW

        People always mention the fact that Costco might be going away, citing some clause in the original site plan that had an expiration date on it or some similar anecdotal reference. But I’ve never seen the data. Believe we, I’d like to, given that I shop at Costco every week. But like you, I’d think that Costco would be bending over backwards to keep that spot. They make money at that store faster than they can count it – just watch the beef tenderloin case or the wine aisle…

  • wat

    Another item I think worth noting is that Shirlington is on the way home for a LOT of people, and convenience as pointed out by others is king.

    “oh i’ll just stop by Walmart on my way home” especially on Friday afternoons would be commonplace off 395, potentially even for those who live closer to other locations such as Kingstown or even Woodbridge.

    • Arlingtonienne

      I definitely think you’re right about that…

    • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

      Are you saying that is bad or good? Maybe they’d also stop for dinner in Shirlington while there, or support some of the other small businesses. That would be good.

  • FedUp

    Here is why Walmart is bad for the community.

    http://walmartwatch.org/

    • Chris M.

      I imagine the feeling I’m having while looking at this site is the same one you have when someone posts link to a piece of uncreditabe, biased, right-wing propaganda.

      • Arlingtonienne

        +1

  • http://nelsm4517@mac.com Ballston Resident

    Thank you Arlington County Board for taking care of the interests of the people who elected you. Well done.

  • MC

    I’m glad this was done, and surprised it hadn’t been done years ago. 50,000 sq feet is huge, the size of a typical suburban Best Buy, surprised something that big can still avoid zoning approval. Not sure why existing businesses like Costco are exempted, especially since it is zoned to be replaced with an office building as soon as it’s lease is over. Even Bailey’s Cross Roads is now trying to get rid of their big box stores.

  • arglebargle

    Didn’t they block a home depot at clarendon across from the whole foods because of ‘traffic concerns’?

    How did they block it without this special law?

    Well I am glad there is no traffic now there for sure!

  • Bobby

    Good job by the county board. Local shops need our business more than national chains. Do the same for restaurants, too, and coffee shops.

    Now if only the county would make stores charge 5 cents for each plastic or paper bag.

    • CW

      See, this reasoning somewhat bothers me. It’s the Apple versus PC thing…”Oh, PCs are soooo corporate and evil, so I’ll buy a Mac, along with 1 billion of my other close, underground, nonconformist friends.” So if you owned a place, say a hamburger shop that you opened with, oh, I don’t know, say, four other guys, and it got sooooo popular that you opened another one to meet demand, then another, then another, and people kept loving your burgers, then at what point do you become evil? Would you stop opening locations because you didn’t want to become an evil, demonic chain?

      Yes, I like good local places. The reason, however, is usually because they bring something to the table that a big company can’t provide – one nice individual who runs it, a really unique offering that wouldn’t fly nationally, etc. But if a local place doesn’t stand up to the competition? Then let the market decide. Frankly, I like having chains in an area because it keeps the local places honest. Beside,s what local business is a Wal-Mart or Target really going to compete with around here? The upscale boutique shops? Gourmet frozen yogurt places (also all chains anyhow)? No. All it’s going to do is to prevent people who don’t want to pay a 200% markup on toilet paper from having to drive 20 miles to get it.

      • Me

        I like the Five Guys analogy. Well said.

      • Thes

        You become evil when you stop being a single person or small partnership making reasonable business judgements with the conscience of a human being, capable of compassion and remorse, and instead become a massive bureaucratic behemoth whose polices and practices are decided by a relentless and unthinking drive to maximize shareholder value above all other considerations.

        • Jason S.

          Other than all of the poorly quantified terms in your post, do you think local businesses open up for some reason other than making money? If somebody likes making coffee, they can work at Starbuck’s, if they think they can make money doing it better, they open their own place. Just being able to do it better isn’t enough reason to put so much time and money into your own business.

          • Thes

            I think very few human beings do *anything* simply in order to make money, if they can help it. For example, most people balance their ability to make a buck at work with the amount of time they have to spend with their family and friends, or to pursue their hobbies. My sense is that most small business owners are also motivated by the freedom to do as they please, the pride they get from seeing their ideas bear fruit, and the respect they get from themselves and others for their achievements.

            However, corporate bureaucracies are designed (or evolve over time) to distill from that richness of human motivation a crystallized hunger for short-term shareholder return. They become something un-human.

          • CW

            Most of your statements are gross, gross overgeneralizations. However, that said, your last statement I would point out only applies to public companies. Private companies often have no such issues. There are plenty of examples.

          • Thes

            We are in agreement. It’s true that many private companies (in particular, those not run by sociopaths) don’t have the soul-less decision-making system that most large public companies do. So that’s why I answered your specific question “at what point do you become evil?” in the way I did. “You” (meaning the company) become evil when shareholder value is the only consideration in the company’s decision-making.

            There are also some individuals (think: rapists) who are evil from the get-go. Some of the these evil people in the world inevitably become small, medium and large business owners. But they don’t become evil, they were that way all along.

        • Lou

          But of course, none of that enters into the special exception permit review process, right?

          • Thes

            By law, it should not.

        • ?

          Take a shower Hippie.

  • pic person

    This thread is depressing

    • Josh S

      Bravo.

  • R0bespierre

    Gotta love it when you have a conveniently logistical reason available to cover the actual goal of keeping “low class” stores out of the upper middle class areas.

    • Arlingtonienne

      Exactly my point about how NO one would be crying foul if this was a Wegman’s that wanted in.

    • Lou

      I’m just as amused at the hypocrites who claim it has nothing to do with the company itself.

      • Thes

        What do you mean by “it”?

  • Coalition AgainstSandwichBoards

    Nothing wrong with the county board wanting to weigh in the pros and cons before letting a big box store in, which will obviously have an impact on the county. This does not mean they would say no, but that they have a say.

    For people who like sprawl and highways there are plenty of such locations already available nearby. Finding a place that has preserved its neighborhoods, community, and trees is much harder!

    • Jason S.

      There’s not much of any of those things you listed in Arlington.

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