When people in Far North Dallas set out to fight a Walmart Supercenter planned for the corner of Coit and Arapaho roads, you could tell City Councilwoman Sandy Greyson wanted to help. There just wasn't anything she could do, save for meet with company representatives and convince them to conduct a pro forma survey that -- surprise, surprise -- revealed that most area residents were excited about, or at the very least would shop at, the store.
Greyson was powerless in this case because he had no leverage, and she had no leverage because zoning rules in Dallas allow stores of up to 100,000 square feet to operate in commercial areas without City Council approval. The proposed Walmart weighed in at a probably strategic 90,000 square feet.
The city of Richardson was paying attention. It caps the size of new retail stores at 70,000 square feet unless the council approves an exception.
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Its border is literally across the street from the Walmart, and many of its residents played a key role in the grassroots fight to stop it, which ultimately failed two weeks back. And so, on July 22, the Richardson City Council unanimously passed what blogger Mark Steger dubs the "Say No to Walmart Amendment." It caps the size of new retail stores at 70,000 square feet unless the council approves an exception.
Walmart was never specifically mentioned during deliberations, but when you're talking big boxes, Walmart is never far from mind. City staff members who proposed the change to city rules argued that "large-scale retail uses potentially produce greater impacts ... related to building mass, traffic, parking, and other concerns to surrounding neighborhoods" and would benefit from a "case-by-case location review."
Richardson isn't the first city to impose such limits. Irving, Fort Worth, McKinney, Arlington, Frisco, Plano, and Carrollton, have caps ranging from 50,000 to 80,000 square feet.
One plan commissioner put it this way: "It seems like a fair break in the scale of these boxes. Anything it seems over and above 70,000 square feet seems to be the ones where we get blowback from neighborhoods. Stuff under that, we don't so much so I guess I find myself a little bit surprised we didn't do this a long time ago."