[Vision2020] Co-op: Yes, But Not Downtown

Dale Courtney dmcourtn at moscow.com
Sat May 21 08:07:35 PDT 2005

Bill London has speculated on the motives of the individuals who recently
filed a complaint against the Moscow Food Co-op for violating Moscow's
zoning code. He said nothing about the merits of the request. No one
attempted to judge the motives of the Co-op's agents who bypass city code as
they attempt to occupy the old Garts building in downtown Moscow, because
while the reason they are violating the ordinance is irrelevant, that they
are indeed violating the ordinance is **not**. 

The Comprehensive Plan says that the success of the Central Business
District can be attributed to "compactness." Indeed, the compactness and
"variety of businesses" in downtown, as opposed to one-stop shopping under
one-roof, encourage people to make the trip, rather than to a large
supermarket or shopping mall in the Motor Business District. 

According to the Comprehensive Plan, reduction in auto movement is
absolutely necessary for the continued viability of the Central Business
District (CBD). There is already considerable auto movement, and "this
traffic represents a danger to shoppers crossing Main Street within the
downtown area." As the focus for the CBD is pedestrian-orientation, any
business that locates downtown should not significantly attract additional
motor traffic. 

Moscow's Zoning Code defines different types of retail establishments: those
"dispensing food or commodities including on-premise sales, sales requiring
delivery of goods, and drive-up facilities such as shopping centers and
malls, **grocery stores**, gasoline service stations" MCC 4.3.7.B(1).
Grocery stores have been defined differently from other retail
establishments due to their nature as a drive-up facility--where a vehicle
is required for most people in order to transport back to home their weekly

Perhaps Moscow's city planners understood the dynamics of retail
growth--that what once was a corner Green Grocer yesterday, will be the new
full-service supermarket tomorrow, complete with deli, bakery, and all the
other components for convenient one-stop shopping. That is why they
expressly forbid the establishment of grocery stores in the CBD. MCC
3.3.5.B. Grocery stores are distinctly defined in the Code, and those uses
which are not expressly permitted, are therefore prohibited. 

To preserve the downtown core, it makes sense to prohibit grocery stores and
other drive-up facilities that are much better suited for the Motor Business
District. The increased vehicular traffic poses an inherent risk to
pedestrians. Moscow's downtown core is best served by a wide array and
collection of small shops and business that lend themselves to a "boutique"
atmosphere. When considered together these enhance the pedestrian foot
traffic throughout the CBD. One-stop shopping and supermarkets would not
only take away from this atmosphere by discouraging pedestrian traffic
within the downtown core, but by also directly competing with a host of
existing downtown businesses. It's simple economic logic. 

One permitted use that might be incompatible with downtown zoning objectives
should not suggest expanding those incompatible uses. Rather, it suggests
the City should consider restricting the expansion of all other potentially
incompatible uses. Regardless of other future changes, we are confident that
if the City Council wants Moscow's primary pedestrian, open-air mall opened
to uses currently inconsistent with the intended use of the Downtown area,
such as a grocery store, then they will follow due process by amending the
Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Code, both of which would require
extensive public hearings, impact-analysis reports, traffic analysis--foot,
and especially auto and parking, and a discussion of the cultural effects on
the community. Nevertheless, until the Co-op complies with the current
zoning ordinance, the law clearly states that their activities are illegal
and must be discontinued. 

I am surprised by the Co-op's apparent unwillingness to **voluntarily**
relocate to the Motor Business District in Moscow where they can operate
legally. The Co-op is valued by a number of Moscow citizens, and in answer
to the question of whether I want the Co-op in Moscow, a resounding: Yes,
But Not Downtown!

Dedicated to Mike Curley, who recently wrote an op-ed entitled NSA: Yes, But
Not Downtown.

Written by Don#2 <http://right-mind.us/archive/2005/05/18/3949.aspx#3961> .

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