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Formula-store limits debated



By Allen Best

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Steamboat Springs continues to debate how it can remain different, avoiding the homogenization of so-called formula stores, without becoming a museum and irrelevant to changing needs.

This debate began at least in the late 1980s, when the town resisted the arrival of Wal-Mart. It finally acquiesced but not before imposing restrictions. In more recent years, it has more tightly capped the size of stores, most protectively so in the old downtown core.

But with 90,000 feet of retail space coming on line in a wave of redevelopment, the city of 11,000 is now talking about restrictions on even small franchises, reports the Steamboat Pilot & Today. The city government’s preliminary definition of a formula store is a store or restaurant among a chain of 10 more that contains standardized merchandize, façade, décor, uniforms, and signs.

The city already has several such stores, including Images of Nature, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Blimpie Subs and Salads.

Restrictions being reviewed could limit one such store per corner, or at least mandate 75-feet separations.

Brad Maxwell, owner of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, told the newspaper that property-defined restrictions would help preserve the small-town feel. And some locally owned stores believe that existing franchises draw visitors that helped them.

The drawing power of familiar names was also alluded to by Ty Lockhart, owner of Steamboat’s iconic F.M. Light & Sons, a century-old clothing store. “People do not want the Gaps and the Ralph Laurens, but then there is the question of how many ‘mom and pops’ will be able to afford that new space,” he says.

The anonymous blogs monitored by the The Pilot reveal a spirited and sharp discussion. Some espoused unfettered free trade. “These so-called formula stores seem to have much higher standards than the moms-and-pops; just makes it easier to keep the food down…” says one. “Do-gooders and the protectionists are going to get their way,” predicted another.

But another blogger argued that the “ideal of a town” trumps business models. Others fretted about whether the new ski area owner, Intrawest, will impose economic dominance and blandness.

Yet another blogger noted that the new projects will ape the Victorian facades found in so many once frilly mining towns such as Breckenridge. A faux-turn-of-the-century building that duplicates those found in other ski towns simply makes Steamboat a formula ski town, wrote “thecondoguy1.”


Carbondale considers Home Depot

CARBONDALE, Colo. – The spirited, sometimes bitter debate about whether to allow The Home Depot inside the municipal tent continues in Carbondale, located 30 miles down-valley from Aspen.

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