The proposed Target is incompatible with the city of Scotts Valley’s land-use plan, which specifically states the following policies and objectives: One, ensure compatibility between residential development and surrounding land uses. Two, the city shall prohibit new land-use activities within and in close proximity to residential zones that generate undesirable impacts which cannot be mitigated. Three, commercial land uses should be concentrated along the urban core of the city.
In addition, the targeted property is not zoned “Shopping Center Commercial,” which is what is required for the development of community or regional shopping centers. This proposed project is at the southern gateway to Scotts Valley, not in downtown or on Scotts Valley drive.
The Target also fails to meet a number of policy objectives set by the City Council in its 2007 Economic Plan. These include the following: 2d) Sustain efforts to maintain the lowest crime rate in the county. 4b) Identify business types that offer above-average salary levels. 4c) Develop and implement incentives to attract new businesses that further the goals and objectives (of livable wages). 4g) Support locally owned businesses. 5f) Encourage mixed-use projects. 6f) Maintain policies to ensure an attractive environment.
Are the city’s land-use plan and economic plan just words? It would appear so to some on this City Council.
All that then-Mayor Dene Bustichi and Mayor Randy Johnson had to do was show appropriate leadership and point out to the property owners and developer that their proposal is inappropriate for the city of Scotts Valley. It would have saved the city, the property owners and the developer hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of effort. No less an authority than the California Supreme Court recently affirmed the rights of local governments to specify limits on the size and location of retail operations in their spheres of influence (see 2007 Hernandez v. City of Hanford).
The California Environmental Quality Act requires that the city of Scotts Valley perform an Environmental Impact Report for this proposed project. That study will undoubtedly show that this project would have significant impacts on the community in the following areas: traffic on city and county roads and state highways; water, including water use, aquifer impacts and toxic runoff; pollution, including trash, noise, light, air and water; and crime increases in the local community. Many of these impacts cannot be mitigated.
Sales tax is an important revenue source for the city of Scotts Valley. It is second only to property taxes, which provides 100 percent more of the operating income of the city (from the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of June 30, 2007). But will this Target store really generate significant additional sales taxes? Or will it just cannibalize sales from other established locally owned businesses? Will it drive other local business, like the Hilton Scotts Valley, out of business? What is appropriate development for Scotts Valley?
These are important questions. The answers are not that difficult to find. Numerous economic studies have been performed by highly respected academic institutions that show the negative impacts of “big-box” stores on local economies and local governments. As a result, a number of governments have codified size limitations for retail operations in their jurisdictions.
The proposed big-box Target store is planned to be 155,000 square feet. This project would result in as many as 10,000 additional car trips per day (estimate from Institute for Transportation Engineer’s Trip Generation Manual) on La Madrona Drive, a two-lane country road. It would likely result in gridlock in the Mt. Hermon corridor, already the third most-traveled route in the county. And the net economic impact on local businesses, the local economy and the finances of this city would be negative!
All of this causes one to ask a number of questions. What is really going on here? Why is this project even being contemplated? Why the focus on just the income side (sales tax)? What about the cost side (public services, additional police, infrastructure maintenance, local business impacts, quality of life, etc).
It makes one wonder, does it not?
Councilman Bustichi and Mayor Johnson appear to have chosen to ignore these facts. This is the single largest proposed retail project in the history of the city. It is about a quarter of the size of the Capitola Mall. State law mandates that the city require an EIR for this project. Given all of the economic impacts this project would have on this city and its citizens, the city should also mandate that an independent Economic Impact Study be performed.
This City Council needs to make the correct decision on this issue for this city and for its citizens. Council members should make sure that it is a properly informed decision!
Frank Z. Kertai is president of Heritage Parks Association/Monte Fiore.