Voters won't decide fate of big box stores

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

HOMER (AP) The Homer City Council has rejected two measures that would have asked residents to determine size limits for large retail stores. Council members decided the issues were too complicated to go before voters on Oct. 7 municipal ballot.

Both proposed ballot measures would have asked voters whether a size cap should be imposed on large stores, and if so, whether stores should be limited to 20,000 or 40,000 square feet. A planned Fred Meyer store has helped fuel the controversy.

Opponents of the ballot questions charged that the council itself is tasked with making such decisions.

Councilman John Fenske said the ballot measures would be incomplete without a set of building design standards to accompany them, by which voters could fully judge the size issue.

Councilmen Rick Ladd and Ray Kranich sponsored the measures, which failed on a 3-4 vote. Councilman Doug Stark favored putting the questions on the ballot.

''I think it's time to find out what the voters' opinion really is,'' Stark said. He said those who support retail size limits opposed the measures because they feared the majority of voters would reject a size cap.

Mayor Jack Cushing said the council has already heard from the public, through hours of public testimony, letters, e-mails and phone calls. He said newspaper surveys could be used instead to get voters' advice.

Of the seven or eight residents who offered testimony on the ballot issue Monday, all favored restrictions on Fred Meyer, and none favored a public vote.

''There's more than the issue of a 20,000-square-foot size cap,'' said Ryjil Christianson. ''I think you're just simplifying things and looking for an easy way out.

''It's more than a size cap,'' Christianson said. ''What about design standards? Are you just stalling?''

The city has already imposed a six-month moratorium limiting the size of new stores until it can come up with more comprehensive design standards, Cushing said. The temporary cap allows stores of 20,000 square feet in the central business district and 40,000 square feet elsewhere.

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