Winchester-Clark County, KY Big-Box Design Standards

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Winchester-Clark County, KY, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Adopted on 8/5/03

Source File:


I. Introduction
A growing trend in communities across the country is the development of large retail, or "big-box", design standards. The cities of Fort Collins, Colorado, Tucson, Arizona, Easton, Maryland, Somerset County, New Jersey, Lexington and Georgetown, Kentucky have already implemented design standards for large retail establishments.

"Big-box" retail can be defined as large-scale retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Meijer, Kroger, Target, Circuit City, or Home Depot, which occupy more than 50,000 square feet and derive their profits from high sales volumes. They may operate as stand-alone facilities, or more commonly they are located in a "power center."

Power centers will usually have some common characteristic such as large rectangular single- story structures, a reliance on auto-borne traffic with large areas of parking, limited mass transit service, and a no frills site plan with little unique community character, mixed-use and pedestrian amenities. Power centers will generally bring together various branches of the "big-box" family, for example, a discount department store, a warehouse club, a supermarket, and smaller out lots. Examples of power centers in Lexington include Hamburg Place, Beaumont Center, and the Lowe’s/Wal-Mart on Nicholasville Road. As "big-box" development could occur in B-3 and B-4, these guidelines shall be utilized in any district where "big-box" development may locate.

II. Background and Justification
The basis for development within our community is set forth in the Zoning Ordinance, Subdivision Regulations, and the Comprehensive Plan. Article I, Section 1.3 of the Zoning Ordinance states, "The purpose of the Zoning Ordinance is to promote the general welfare by establishing and regulating zoning districts… In establishing the zoning districts, this ordinance seeks the general welfare by designating sufficient space for all necessary uses of land, by protecting the permitted uses in each district from the undesirable effects of conflicting uses, and by ensuring the stable value of all permitted development." Article V of the Subdivision Regulations require the submission of a development plan indicating the physical information of a proposed development.

Article VI sets forth the content and format of the development plan. In addition Chapter VIII of the Comprehensive Plan states “ Review and amend local land use regulations to ensure that they encourage quality development that protects the natural features of the land, allows for innovative development, allows for the delivery of urban services and traffic flow…”

With the amount of growth occurring in Winchester- Clark County, it is a matter of time before more large retail establishments begin locating in our community and the possibility of existing establishments relocating or expanding. Large retail establishments will locate anywhere, be it a rural town, suburban county, or an urban center.

The residents of Winchester-Clark County are largely defined by small town characteristics and quality of life. As a community, we should not only be concerned about the economic impact of big-box retailers on our traditional merchants but also on how the appearance of such retail establishments fit in with the community.

Our community does not have to rely on the dull, rectangular boxes of retail giants, with massive amounts of asphalt and limited landscaping and pedestrian amenities.

A growing number of jurisdictions are requiring a much higher level of design standards and implementing procedures that require large retail stores to better relate to the characteristics of the community.

In Fort Collins, CO., there were many public hearings with the community playing a large role in defining the retail standards, and it resulted in a nationally acclaimed ordinance. Staff has reviewed this ordinance and those adopted by Georgetown and Lexington, KY. The research indicates that Fort Collins has become the model that communities are basing their design standards and ordinances on.

These proposed guidelines are a response to dissatisfaction with corporate chain marketing strategy, dictating design that is indifferent to local identity and interests. The main goal is to encourage development that contributes to Winchester-Clark County as a unique place by reflecting its physical character and adding to it in appropriate ways. Large retail developments depend on high visibility from major public streets. In turn, their design determines much of the character and attractiveness of major streetscapes in the city. The marketing interests of many corporations, even strong image-making design by professional designers, can be potentially detrimental to community aspirations and sense of place when they result in massive individual developments that do not contribute to or integrate with the community in a positive way.

The purpose of these guidelines is to augment the existing criteria contained in the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations, with more specific interpretations that apply to the design of large retail developments. These guidelines require a basic level of architectural variety, compatible scale, pedestrian and bicycle access, and mitigation of negative impacts.

III. Procedure
The following guidelines are to be used as a design aid by developers proposing large retail developments and as an evaluation tool by the staff of the Planning Commission in their review processes. These guidelines shall apply to all projects, which are processed according to the criteria for proposed development plans and to all projects for retail establishments of more than 50,000 square feet. These guidelines are to be used in conjunction with the Subdivision and Zoning Regulations.

See the resource file for all the particulars.