Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Formula" Businesses...

A recent USA Today article focused on ordinances that seek to ban chain or "formula" businesses from locating in a jurisdiction:

Striving to protect that charm, town officials crafted an ordinance that bans "formula restaurants" from opening within the city limits. A group of eight investors challenged that ordinance, suing Springdale, 16 town officials and the town's attorneys for what the plaintiffs say is their constitutional right to open a Subway restaurant franchise.

...

Springdale's zoning ordinance, similar to others across the nation, prohibits a variety of businesses, including formula restaurants and delicatessens, because they are found to be in conflict with the town's general plan. The National League of Cities supports leaders who want to protect their community's character and economic development, says Gregory Minchak, a spokesman for the league.

I'm certainly a strong proponent of locally-owned businesses (we try to shop, eat, and frequent them as often as possible here in Montgomery). 

That said, a common misconception is that chain restaurants, drug stores, and the like are dogmatic in only using a single prototype store model.  That's actually not the case as I've seen an increasing number of "formula" businesses--such as Walgreens, Target, and Publix--construct (or rehab) structures that fit nicely into a given area's architectural and design fabric. 

Below is one such example from a recent visit to Washington, D.C.: DSCN0137
As you can see, with a strong form-based code in place (along with useful design guidelines or regulations), a chain like Orvis can certainly find itself part of a well-designed built environment. 

Now, if the goal is to simply prohibit non-local businesses--even ones in well-formed buildings--then, that's a much trickier legal question as the article notes.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/land_use/2010/08/formula-businesses.html

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