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June 10, 2007

On June 4, the Moscow City Council rejected all proposed amendments to the city's Large Retail Establishment Ordinance. This unfortunate outcome was anticipated due to the departure from Council of two of the amendments supporters leaving the majority of the remaining four council seats in the temporary control of Big Box Boosters. It is anticipated that the seat left vacant by Bob Stout will be filled by mayoral appointment on June 18. The seat left vacant by the death of John Dickinson will be filled at the November election. We hope the inclusion of a size cap will be revisited after the November elections.


June 10, 2007

The proposal to build 1.4 million square foot of big box retail space just across the state line from Moscow is slowly sinking on the issue of water supply. Applications for transfer of water rights to the project have been protested by a coalition of Palouse region conservation groups and the City of Moscow. The Whitman Conservancy Board, which is tasked with making a recommendation on the applications to the Washington Department of Ecology, has suspended deliberations on the applications while seeking technical advice from DOE.

The protest filed by the groups can be found at

Last year, hundreds of concerned citizens worked together to convince our elected and appointed officials to just say no to a proposal to develop a 700,000 square foot shopping center in East Moscow.  We need your help again, to urge the City Council to pass amendments to Ordinances governing large-scale retail development in Moscow.  City Council will consider two provisions:

one which places limitations on a retailers ability to abandon its big box (“dark store provisions”)

and another which places a 130,000 size cap on new stores in Moscow (the existing Wal-Mart is just under 100,000 square feet). 

Towns and cities all over the United States have enacted similar provisions to ensure that local residents, not big box retailers, are in control of the community’s future.   

Tell your friends!  Write letters to the editor (300 word limit):   

Last year we all worked hard to protect Moscow’s future, but our work is not done.  We need size cap and dark store provisions in place to keep Moscow vibrant and livable, and we need your help to convince the council to enact them.     

Additional Information  

In August 2005, Council annexed several large parcels of land, placed a moratorium on certain kinds of development and charged the Planning and Zone Commission with developing some new zoning ordinances for Large-scale Retail Establishments  (LREs) within 6 months. In February, 2006, the new Moscow City Council enacted the LRE ordinance that P&Z recommended to regulate the development of stores over 40,000 sqft. (For reference, the old Tidymans is just smaller than 40K). Following enactment, the Council charged P&Z with re-examining the ordinance and making some changes, specifically a provision for Dark Stores and a Cap on the maximum size of a LRE.

P&Z created two subcommittees that met during the summer and fall of 06. By chance, Nils Peterson served on both. The Dark Stores are an issue because vacant LREs become urban blight, and require new land be consumed for retail while other suitable land sits idle with a “dark” store. Tidymans, and Ernst, are two recent examples in Moscow. Some large retailers use Dark Store as a strategy, closing one store and opening another, but not allowing a competitor to occupy the first location. The goal of the subcommittee was to develop a mechanism to pressure an owner to get a retail site back into use, rather than allow it to remain dark. Importantly, the proposal does not front-load a new business with a demolition bond, and also exempts establishments that are actively marketing their vacant property. The proposal only bares its teeth (a fine) in the event an owner does not develop and execute a plan to market a property and report on that plan to the City. Any owner who is serious about getting out from under a vacant store would not be adversely impacted, beyond sharing its plan and efforts with the City. Tidymans was the poster child for this subcommittee and they would not have met any adverse penalty for they way they handled that property.

The idea of a Cap is that there is too much of a good thing. It sets an upper limit on the size of a LRE. That committee did a variety of work examining two categories of LRE (judged by size or amount of required parking) and decided that some stores that sell “bulky” items (as defined by the zoning code) should be allowed to be relatively larger than typical LREs. Examples are furniture and building supplies. These refinements liberalized the LRE definitions in targeted ways. The subcommittee was split about the idea of an absolute Cap and ultimately the P&Z decided to discuss (and then defeat) a cap of 130,000 sqft (for reference, the Moscow WalMart is just under 100K sqft.)

The idea of a Cap is going before the Moscow City Council, with a recommendation from P&Z that there be no Cap. It is the recommendation of NoSuperWalMart that a Cap is needed and 100,000 sqft is appropriate. The Cap was defeated in P&Z when the owners of the two Moscow malls opposed it, because their establishments are well over that size and the LRE would prevent them from rebuilding after a fire. NoSuperWalMart recommends that language be crafted to exempt the current malls, at their current size.

NSWM urges you to attend the Council hearing, wear your button if you have it, and advocate for keeping Moscow livable, with both Dark Store and Cap provisions to the LRE.

UPDATE - MOSCOW -- Members of the Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday night voted 3-2 to hold a Feb. 28 public hearing on a recommendation to prohibit big-box stores here larger than 130,000 square feet and require more than 410 parking spaces.

The Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission will decide whether to include or not include a size cap on Big Box retailers in their recommendation to City Council amending the Large Retail Establishment Ordinance January 24, 7:30 pm in Council Chambers, City Hall. It is critical that all those who want to see Moscow grow responsibly attend this meeting and voice their support of a 100,000 square foot size cap. WalMart and big box supporters have been showing their willingness to pressure city hall and will be there. Let's show them what this community is really made of.

If you are not able to attend, please consider submitting written comments to:

Joel Plaskon, Community Development Director:

Better yet, submit comments AND send a letter to the editor (300 word limit):

See you there!

December 4, 2006 - County Commissioners hearing
The Latah County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on whether to adopt Moscow's Big Box ordinance for the Area of City Impact surrounding Moscow on Monday December 4, 6:00 pm, Room 2B of the Latah County Courthouse. County adoption of the ordinance would close a huge gap in the ability of the people of Moscow and Latah County to control where big box retailers can locate and under what conditions. Leaving it open is a clear signal to WalMart and others that going across the city line into the county may get them what the City of Moscow has clearly told them: No!

Currently, big box retailers such as Walmart are a permitted use in commercial zones in the county, even if they are just across the Moscow city limits. By adopting the Moscow ordinance for the area directly outside the city, a big box developer would have to comply with the same rules that are in effect inside the city preventing areas that are likely to be annexed into the city from development with uses or in ways that are not compatible with Moscow's future growth plans.

Opponents of land use regulation such as the newly formed Greater Moscow Alliance are already on record as strongly opposing the Big Box ordinance. They intend on making this their line in the sand and daring the commissioners to cross it. It is critical that the commissioners hear loudly and clearly that citizens of Latah County support the common sense conditions for big box retail development in the proposed ordinance.

The full text of the ordinance can be found at:

If you are unable to attend the hearing, please email your comments to the county commissioners by 12/1 at:

But please try to attend. The elections may be behind us, but counting heads is still important to elected officials when local decisions are being made.

November Post-Election 2006 UPDATE

Thanks everyone for your help in defeating Prop 2. An unprecedented coalition of political leaders, businesses and organizations from both sides of the political aisle united in this effort to protect Idaho from unprincipled development interests.

Now back to the hard work of making local land use decisions respect both the needs of the community and the rights of private property owners.

October 2006 UPDATE
Make sure you're aware of an incredibly dangerous measure on this November's ballot: Proposition 2. If approved, Prop 2 would effectively eliminate all planning and zoning laws and regulations allowing developments such as the Thompson SuperWalmart proposal or Naylor Farms to go ahead with no ability to stop them. We are not exaggerating.

Read the Fact sheet on Prop 2 from Neighbors Protecting Idaho ( that more fully explains its effects.

Locally, there will be two forums on Prop 2 this coming week, Tuesday, 7pm at City Hall and Wednesday, noon, at the Moscow School District Office Conference Room (by the Jr. H.S...Mark Solomon will be the speaker). Please take some time to become informed on this issue and SPREAD THE WORD!

October 10, 7pm, Moscow Council Chambers

Eminent Domain & Regulatory Takings

The City of Moscow and Latah County invite you to attend an educational forum on the proposed citizen initiative Proposition 2 regarding property rights, eminent domain and just compensation for regulatory takings in Idaho. The forum will feature Proposition 2 Sponsor: "This House is My Home", Trish Oaks and Heather Cunningham, Attorney at Law. Joining them will be Jerry Mason, Attorney at Law representing the opposing view of the measure.

The forum is free and open to the public.
For those unable to attend, watch the forum on the City's cable channel 13.
For more information, call the City at 208-883-7000 or Latah County at 208-882-8580.

September 2006 UPDATE:
Closing the Gaps

Thanks to an energized Moscow community and a City Council with the strength to say “NO” to a bad development proposal, Wal-Mart was shut down in their attempt to build a SuperCenter in town. But we’re not totally in the clear, yet.

There are two other possibilities for siting a SuperCenter close to Moscow. One is in the county immediately outside the city limits called the Area of City Impact. The other is across the state line along the Pullman Highway.

Area of City Impact:

Background: The Latah County Commissioners will be deciding whether to adopt recent city land use ordinances for the Area of City Impact. These ordinances include Moscow’s Large Retail Establishment Ordinance commonly known as the Big Box Ordinance. The Big Box ordinance goes to the commissioners with a recommendation for passage from the Latah Planning Commission. No date has been set for the commissioner’s decision, but it is expected to be heard towards the end of September or early October.

Issue: Latah County zoning laws currently allow all sizes of retail establishments in a commercial zone as a right of use. There is no public hearing required or ability to impose conditions on the development to control the impacts of traffic, noise, light, water use, etc. Retail establishments are conditionally allowed in an industrial zone, but there are no guidelines in the county zoning code spelling out what conditions should be addressed by an applicant. The City’s Large Retail Establishment Ordinance makes big box stores a conditional use and provides a list of conditions to be assessed and a design manual to make big boxes fit Moscow a bit better than the cookie cutter stores most big box retailers build.

Action: Contact the Latah County Commissioners and express your strong support for adopting the Large Retail Establishment Ordinance for Moscow’s Area of City Impact.

Latah County Commissioners
PO Box 8680
Moscow, Idaho

Jack Nelson:
Paul Kimmell:
Tom Stroschein:

Pullman/Moscow Corridor:

Background: The Hawkins Companies of Boise have started the application process to build a 200-acre big box development just across the state line by Airport Road. Water supply is likely the biggest stumbling block to the proposal. Loews Home Center is the only declared occupant at this time, but there is plenty of room for a SuperCenter there as well.

Action: Subscribe to the NoSuperWalmart Alert [ ] list for more information as their application moves through the Whitman County process.

Closing the Gap
download September 2006 "Closing the Gaps" flyer [pdf]

Town Crier
Property Wrongs

by Mark Solomon
Daily News, Wednesday, September 6, 2006

On November 7, Idaho voters will be asked whether they wish to fundamentally
change one of the powers exercised by government
and oh, by the way, destroy our communities.
Breaking the Chain
The antitrust case against Wal-Mart
By Barry C. Lynn
at Harper's Magazine

August 21, 2006 UPDATE
It's been a slow summer on the public hearing front in our continuing work to make sure Walmart is not able to pop up somewhere else in Moscow, but that's about to change. The first hearing is next Tuesday, 8/29, in front of the Latah County Planning Commission where they will take testimony on whether several new City ordinances including the BIG BOX ORDINANCE should apply in the Area of City Impact zone surrounding Moscow.

NoSuperWalmart strongly supports the adoption of the ordinance by the county. Currently, there are no additional review measures in place in the county zoning laws that would allow for conditions to be placed on a big box developer. While there are no unoccupied areas appropriately zoned for big box development at this time, things change. Please either attend the hearing or send written comment prior to the hearing to:

Michelle Fuson, Latah County Planner
stating your support for adoption of the City's Large Retail Establishment Ordinance (Moscow Ordinance 2006-03) by the county for the Area of City Impact.

More information on the City Big Box ordinance can be found at :

More daily Walmart cartoons here.

[ This is not a group to debate the merits of a SuperWalmart in Moscow
The intention of the group is to defeat a Super Walmart project.

Subscribe to the discussion group listserv here: