Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fear of Big Box - NOT ! ! !

A respect for the desires of the community, rather than "Fear of the Big Box," is what is motivating those "opposing" a Big Box. Someone opined in the Wave of the supposed "Fear" driving opposition.

A mere year and half ago the Heber City Council placed a cap on retail business at 60,000 sq. ft. in response to the expressed desires of the vast majority of the Heber Valley. This action followed a public hearing Jun 6, 2005; the public response was overwhelmingly in favor of the cap on retail business size. The minutes of that meeting can be found on Heber City’’s website.

Next week the Heber City Council will be considering eliminating that cap and raising the limit to 200,000 sq. ft. AND allowing 55 ft. high buildings (isn’’t that FIVE stories?) AND allowing a housing density of 30 dwelling units per acre of land.

Thousands of Heber citizens' tax dollars have been spent on a Dan Jones survey and a Big Box study on the issue. The survey of Heber, and other Wasatch County, residents clearly indicated they did not want (or need) a Big Box. More retail - yes! Big Box - NO!

Here are a few of the survey responses:

  • When asked in for an open answer (#6) "What do you like best about living in the Heber City are?" about 60% specifically responded with terms like "rural," "small town," "peaceful," "remoteness," and "beauty."
  • When asked (#7) for desired "major improvements," 28 % said "more shopping facilities." Reading the comments, one finds that means "mom and pop" stores, restaurants, movies, small retail stores, etc. - a mere 4% suggested a Big Box.
  • In answer to (#42) "What projects or services would you like," only 12% called for "more retail shopping" and, again, a mere 4% (9 out of 236) indicated a desire for a Big Box.
  • "How important is it to you that Heber City have that small-town character?" (#43) gets an astounding 89% answering IMPORTANT!!

The $10,000 big box study showed the pros and cons of the potential arrival of a big box in the valley; mostly negatives. The report indicated a net financial gain to Heber’’s coffers of less than $200,000 on estimated gross sales of $37 million - hardly a massive windfall.

The Heber City General Plan clearly calls for promoting MAIN STREET business: "Main Street is the economic, architectural and historical heart of the community. The most powerful and lasting image associated with Heber City is Main Street. " "Promote downtown as a distinctive shopping area emphasizing it as an attractive meeting place and staging area for festivals, special events, celebrations and a variety of community activities."

The actual law capping the size of retail buildings includes the wording "Attempts to circumvent or exceed this maximum, 60,000 square feet, shall be strictly prohibited." This wording is in ALL of the commercial zones. I leave it to the Heber citizens to determine the meaning of those statements.

All of these reports are available on Heber City’’s website. I wish everyone would read them - especially the City Council, before they make a decision. Is this proposed increase being done for the "health, safety and welfare of the community" our, in other words, for the benefit of the Heber Valley as a whole; or is it merely another benefit being freely offered to developers (out of town ones, at that).

Fear of Big Box - no, I don’’t think so. Respect for the desires of the community - priceless.


PJ said...

You wrote:

"The survey of Heber, and other Wasatch County, residents clearly indicated they did not want (or need) a Big Box. More retail - yes! Big Box - NO!"

That's one interpretation. And it's an incorrect interpretation.

In truth, this was a pretty schizophrenic study.

While it is true that most survey respondents said that there "should be a cap on" the size of retail stores, the question did NOT specify what that size would be.

While anti-Wal-Mart zealots love to tout this Dan Jones survey as incontrovertible PROOF that Heber Valley residents do NOT want a so-called "big box" store, the truth is not so black and white.

There were SOME negative responses about the impact of a Wal-Mart in town, but it is not one-sided opposition.

Anti-Wal-Martists conveniently ignore many of the answers that county residents gave in the survey:

Question 87: 52% support a large-scale, "big box" store in Heber City. That's a slim majority, but it IS a majority. The majority of respondents WANT a big box. You are telling lies when you say that the community does not want a big box--only 44% said they do not want one.

Heber City residents are even MORE in favor of having a big box here. 59% said they would be supportive of a big box in town.

65% of survey respondents said that having a big box store in town "will positively impact employment opportunities."

68% agreed that a big box "will increase tax revenues."

49% believe that large retail stores "encourage competition."


Look, this Boyer plan is ridiculous and should be opposed. We don't want that highly-packed, ultra dense housing on the site. We definitely don't need a shopping center adding to the congestion of that intersection, especially once the high school is built nearby.

But a Wal-Mart IS going to be here, sooner or later. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's built further out from the center of town.

Whether you like it or not, the valley is growing, and residents will demand a large retail store close by. I'd almost prefer Charleston build one, so Heber can miss out on the tax revenues. You need to get used to the idea that Heber is not a one-stoplight podunk town anymore.

JQW said...

I'm happy to see you agree that "the Boyer plan is ridiculous and should be opposed."

I agree that the poll was schizophrenic, there are other sources expressing the will of the community (e.g. the Heber City and County General Plans and the hearings on the issue in 2005.

The inevitability of a Heber Valley WalMart is neither wrong - or a foregone conclusion.

You say "one-stoplight podunk town", I submit world class, rural small town.