Reality Of Big Boxes

 

In “A Kinder, Gentler Big Box?” [July 23, Place Section], columnist Tom Condon asks, “Can a big box be part of an appealing mixed-use development?” There are two answers: a theoretical “maybe”, but a realistic “no.”

 

If warning bells are clanging in Simsbury residents’ minds over Konover Development’s Rout 10 proposal, it’s no surprise. They have seen the unfortunate result of similar promises next door in canton. Some hints from those who learned the hard way.

 

It is not smart growth to co-opt the term “mixed-use” in order to camouflage the fact that a development’s main tenant is an in-expensive-to-build, buy costly-for-the-community-to-support big-box store.

 

Don’t expect that what’s promised at the time of a zone change request is the plan that will be actually delivered. Konover President Michael Goman has stated that the market will drive the uses within the development. That’s the same “escape clause” that the developer of Canton’s Shoppes at Farmington Valley used. The athletic-facility-based, mixed-use proposal that prompted Canton to rezone its golf course from residential to business was widely welcomed in town – before it morphed into a faux village center and then a three big-box mall. The market so dictated, said the developer.

 

Simsbury presumably zoned this land for light industry because it was deemed appropriate for such high-ratable uses. Why squander it on a low-paying, high-impact use such as a glorified shopping center?

 

As a member of Simsbury’s Republican town committee, Mr. Goman was instrumental in attempting to oust longtime zoning commissioner Austin Barney (known for his thorough but fair scrutiny of applications) in favor of Timothy Ellsworth, the very individual who successfully requested the Canton Golf Course rezoning for the mixed-use athletic development, then proposed a shopping center – because the market so dictated.

 

Jane Latus

Canton

 

The writer is vice president of the Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion