Portsmouth caps retail at 45K! [Update w links]

Feb 4, 2008 Town Council
Assistant Town Planner Gary Crosby addresses the Town Council.

By a 4-3 vote, the Portsmouth Town Council this evening enacted a a hard cap on "new or expanded single-use retail over 45,000 square feet in building foundation area." In addition, Planned Unit Development (PUD) changes were unanimously approved for all buildings in town over 25K square feet, subjecting them to additional constraints and a rigorous review process.

Although there was some back-and-forth over the specifics of the PUD ordinance, that passed easily, and the council moved on to the question of a cap, taking it in stages: first voting on adopting a hard cap (which passed 6-1) and then, setting the size.

"This is our hour as a town," said resident George Nichols before the vote, "This is where we define ourselves."

The first proposal, 35K square feet, failed 4-3, as the Council struggled with allowing existing buildings (like Clements Market at 32K) room to expand. Karen Gleason's attempt to set the cap smaller was dismissed outright. "We can't make Clements non-conforming," said Council President Dennis Canario. Even at 35K, he added, "You've told them they can never expand. You can't even put an outhouse attached to the building."

"Depends on how big the outhouse is," noted Councilor Huck Little dryly.

A motion for 40K failed 4-3, but 45 proved to be the magic number a majority could live with.

It was a huge win for the citizen group which had been fighting for a cap since Target approached the town last year. Preserve Portsmouth founder Conni Harding could be seen hugging supporters in the audience following the vote.

Note: I'll try to do a writethru in the morning. Just wanted to get the word out.

Read the Providence Journal coverage.
And here's the story in the Newport Daily News
And one more from the Sakonnet Times.