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San Anselmo council members still aren’t quite sure how the town could ban, or restrict, chain stores downtown.
After , the council had asked staff to provide more information on the subject.
However, when the topic resurfaced for discussion on Tuesday night, some councilmembers agreed they needed additional time to mull over a formula-retail ordinance.
“My nightmare is that San Anselmo Avenue starts looking like any other mall in America,” said Councilman Jeff Kroot. But he added that he “didn’t know how to thread the needle on this.”
Jennifer Hansen, the owner of consignment store in downtown San Anselmo, told the council members during public comment they need to decide if they are concerned about the aesthetics of chain stores or keeping local businesses. “You’re lacking clarity between keeping the town looking like it does or keeping the town with the same content. Are you going to have a discussion about how to make the bigger retailers fit in with the aesthetics of the town or whether or not we want [them]?”
Vice Mayor Kay Coleman agreed. “We’ve done a lot of discussion about aesthetics and not about formula.”
Coleman spoke of concerns that a formula-retail ordinance would work against filling the town’s vacant spaces, although ultimately she “would like to see all the storefronts filled up with local people doing local businesses and having a great time.
Interim Planning Director Diane Henderson told the council the town currently has the tools in place to address the aesthetic concerns with chain stores.
WHAT DEFINES FORMULA RETAIL?
A staff report (attached as a PDF) provided the council with possible “formula-retail” definitions, such as having 50 or more other retail establishments in the U.S.
Some councilmembers weren’t sure if defining chain stores by a number would work.
Last month, , including the founder of High-Tech Burrito and one of the Red Hill Shopping Center owners, who were worried about formula-retail ordinance impacts.
High Tech Burrito Founder and President Greg Maples had told the council he was concerned High Tech Burrito would be considered a chain because there are 12 High Tech Burritos in the Bay Area.
On Tuesday night and last month, several council members agreed they wouldn't like to see a chain such as a McDonald's in town.
'PROACTIVE' VS. 'REACTIVE'
On Tuesday night, Councilman Ford Greene said he was in favor of copying Fairfax’s ordinance, which requires formula-retail establishments to obtain a conditional use permit based on certain findings. “I don’t like the numbers approach.”
Mayor Tom McInerney said he didn’t see a need to add another layer of regulation. “It seems like we’re looking for a solution in search of a problem.”
Councilwoman Lori Lopin disagreed. “Once they come in it’s too late. I’d rather be proactive than reactive.”
The council agreed to continue the discussion to another meeting, giving council members additional time to look into the topic and study Fairfax’s ordinance.
FAIRFAX, SAUSALITO HAVE FORMULA-RETAIL ORDINANCES
Fairfax and Sausalito are the only Marin towns with formula-retail ordinances.
In both towns, formula retail establishments must meet certain criteria to receive a conditional use permit.
The formula-retail debate recently became heated in Mill Valley, where , according to the Mill Valley Patch.