An area coalition argued before the Brainerd Planning Commission on Thursday that superstores such as Target superstores, Wal-Mart Super Center, and Costco devastate communities by driving other stores out of business.
The Brainerd Lakes Area Coalition for Responsible Development is pushing for an ordinance limiting the size of a store to 100,000 square feet and requiring an economic impact statement be conducted before approval or denial of any large development -- especially major retail.
About 50 people attended the planning commission meeting.
The coalition defines a superstore as a store bigger than 200,000 square feet, has a grocery store and goes into specialty sales, such as a flower shop.
"Size is what's important. We're not looking to limit what a store can and can't sell," said coalition chair Ed Shaw, a Brainerd attorney. "In the community, superstores impact jobs, the environment and small local businesses. Other cities have said no, we can, too."
The city planning commission unanimously decided to recommend the Brainerd City Council include a superstore discussion in the comprehensive plan work. Gary Scheeler, city council member and commission member, abstained.
Planning Commission chair Ed Menk, owner of E. L. Menk Jeweler in downtown Brainerd, said his business suffered when Westgate Mall moved into Baxter, forcing him to rethink how he did business.
"The first lesson in the school of hard knocks is change happens, and businesses need to learn that," said Menk, also responding to the coalition's request for size limits. "Size isn't what matters, it's the method of operation."
Paxie Imsdahl, an area grocery store employee and a representative of the coalition, said her job and hundreds of her co-workers' jobs would be in jeopardy if a superstore came to Brainerd.
Scheeler said, based on the big stores in Baxter already -- none of which is under 100,000 square feet -- the coalition is behind the times.
"It's suddenly like a light came on," said Scheeler. "It's after the fact. They're all built."
Responded Shaw: "Well, it's like making a wrong turn and saying, 'Oh well, I've already gone a mile I might as well keep going.'"
Scheeler also questioned whether a grocery store was behind the coalition's effort to keep superstores out of Brainerd, a comment that elicited groans of protest from the audience.
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