The vote came last Thursday at a special council meeting called in response to public outcry over the possibility that a Walmart could be headed for the Sciortino Ranch property at Brentwood Boulevard and Sand Creek Road. Although no application has yet been received, such a store could be built under the current zoning after undergoing a design review only. Addressing impacts such as traffic and the effects a large-scale retailer might have on other stores could not be addressed unless a conditional use permit (CUP) is also required.
The move came after the council had been informed by staff that not only does the Sciortino Ranch not require a CUP, but neither do any of the other six parcels in the city currently zoned for large-scale retail.
Councilman Erick Stonebarger, who like the other council members was unaware that CUPs were not required for big-boxes anywhere in the city, said that while it’s not unusual for communities to establish zoning that permits big-boxes without such permits, that arrangement is not right for Brentwood. The ability to adequately control the impacts of development is one of the tools needed to guarantee Brentwood approves quality growth, he said, adding that “I was reminded (by City Manager Paul Eldredge) of the fact that, right now, we don’t even have a tool box.”
More than two dozen members of the public spoke at the meeting, most decrying what a big-box store would do to surrounding businesses, especially the downtown area one mile away and in the final stages of a multi-million-dollar overhaul. They also objected to the fact that the 2009 council decision that permitted the construction of big-box stores without a CUP also cut back on park space on the 65-acre ranch, as well as removing roadway improvements called for in the Brentwood Boulevard Master Plan.
While pleased that Tuesday’s decision to consider CUPs on projects more than 75,000 square feet, opponents want the rest of the 2009 decision set aside as well, returning the property to the more-restrictive 2005 zoning that preceded it. Plans to put a rezoning initiative on the ballot will move ahead, said spokesperson Annette Beckstrand.
Not everyone, however, was pleased with the decision. Reed Oñate, attorney for Sciortino Ranch owners New Urban Community Partners, said thousands of dollars had been spent in an attempt to develop the property based on the rights affording it under the 2009 zoning. Additionally, he said, a major retailer would help spur development in the northeast part of the city that has gone virtually unimproved while the western sector received the majority of upscale housing and shopping. Also, a large-scale retailer would provide millions of dollars in tax revenue, fees and construction permits for the city as well as hundreds of retail jobs.
NUCP President Dave Sansung also spoke, offering to pay for a poll of the entire community to determine its interest in a big-box retailer at Sciortino rather than be subject to a decision made solely by officials at the meeting.
The council also came under fire for holding the meeting at 2 p.m. on a Thursday, when most residents were unable to attend. Mayor Bob Taylor, who called the meeting, said he wanted to make sure the entire council could attend the meeting, and that the council needed to make a decision before an application for a big-box store came forward.
Stonebarger said this week that such urgency was only precautionary. During the meeting, Rick Jarvis, special attorney to the city, said any big-box development could be forestalled even after an application is filed by establishing a city-wide moratorium on large-scale retailers.