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Discussions about formula retail store definition, square footage began last week

October 19, 2016
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Land Development Code Review Subcommittee started conversations last week about the definition of formula retail stores and whether the planning commission should be empowered to have complete authority to approve new formula retail stores as conditional use.

The majority of the planning commission agreed that they should approve the applications for formula retail stores. Under city law, when a total of 50,000 square feet is reached with formula retail stores, the review process is altered. Once the 50,000 square feet of formula retail store is established the review goes before the planning commission and city council.

"I actually think what we need to do is spend a little bit of time trying to understand what problem it is we are trying to solve," Chuck Ketteman said. "Is the problem that we are over 50,000 square feet, so people are concerned that it will be impossible to have any other formula retail on the island? Is the problem that the whole process isn't working because we are seeing the local small business guys not being able to make it because rent is to high? Maybe we need to change the whole philosophy. What is the problem we are trying to solve?"

James Jordan, planning director, said formula retail stores do not include establishments that provide professional services, such as real estate, medical, dental, offices of health practitioners, banks, saving and loan associations, mortgage and securities brokers, accounting services, appraisers, cable television services, insurance agents and interior decorators. "Formula retail stores" also do not include grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants and gasoline service stations.

He said the intent is to not prohibit formula retail stores from opening on Sanibel, but rather have a balance between island serving resident businesses verses tourist/visitor oriented businesses.

Another issue lies within the 50,000 square feet for commercial retail space. That square footage was based on 18 commercial stores that were inventoried at the time the ordinance was drafted.

"It has been misconstrued as a cap. It's actually what we calculated as the commercial floor area devoted to formula retail use," Jordan said. "It was intended to trigger any applications after that 50,000 square feet to be reviewed on a different set of criteria. Any business that qualifies as a formula retail will still have to go through a conditional use approval."

Jordan said what they are recommending is that the City Council approve an ordinance within the land development plan to mend that section of the code to allow the planning commission to have complete authority to grant the applications below 50,000 square feet and above for any formula retail store.

As of Oct. 7, the drafted formula retail list presented to the subcommittee included 7-Eleven with no gasoline service; Eileen Fisher; Everything But Water; FantaSea; Fresh Produce; Speedway; Island Pursuit; J. McLaughlin; Mango Bay; Naples Soap Company; Norris Home Furnishings; Sanibel Olive Oil; Synergy Sportswear of Florida, Inc.; Tiki Jims; Wilford and Lee, all located in the General Commercial District for a total of 33,281 square feet. The Town Center General Commercial District includes Goodwill and Winds for a total of 6,800 square feet. The Town Center Limited Commercial District includes 7-Eleven with six gas pumps and CVS Pharmacy for a total of 12,656 square feet.

The total square footage of formula retail stores as of Oct. 7 is 52,737 square feet.

Christopher Heidrick said they currently have roughly 20 stores in the list that are boutiques. He said probably half of them got their approval over the last five or six years.

"My personal feeling is that at everyone of those applications I said 'I think if I was the owner of this location it never would have occurred to me that I had fallen under the definition of formula retail,'" he said. "I think that is the more important issue that we have to discuss. If we do solve that then there may be some locations on this list that fall off and the 50,000 square foot trigger no longer becomes relevant."

Phillip Marks said when looking at the grocery stores like Jerry's, which has several in Minnesota, and the national brand gas stations, Ace that has thousands of stores, and two 7-Eleven's they are exempt. CVS, he went on to say accounts for more than 10,000 square feet, was singled out even though they are a national brand.

"That is 20 percent of the 50,000. I feel that maybe they can be taken off because they are essential. It's not just the prescription in the back, it's the over counter medicine that you might need," he said of CVS.

Marks said they want to encourage local business people to come to the island and establish a business and hopefully live here.

John Talmage said he thinks they are making an economic issue without any kind of metric model. He said he believes there is a quantifiable way to get to the answer without making arbitrary distinctions.

Ketteman said the cost structure is so high that the small individual businesses that want to make it on the island cannot, which is why they see turnover. The formula, he said is only allowing formula or more efficient big stores the ability to survive.

"What you drive then is the lack of occupancy," Ketteman said.

Holly Smith said she would like to be very cautious of how they change the definition of a formula retail store because she does not want to limit mom and pop shops from the ability to come to Sanibel.

Further discussion will take place after the next planning commission meeting Oct. 25.



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