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Moratorium on some franchise business licenses to be discussed

Six months to figure out appropriate regulations

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council is moving toward enacting a six-month moratorium on issuing new business licenses for so-called “formula” restaurant and retail endeavors in town. Those six months will be spent analyzing the potential impacts of an increase in such franchise businesses and give the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) time to formulate a recommendation to council.

A public hearing on the moratorium is slated for October 1, when the council will likely make a decision. Ultimately, the council will consider a limit on the number of formula/franchise restaurant and retail businesses allowed in Crested Butte.

The council discussed the matter for the second time at the September 17 council meeting. While the meeting was highly publicized, no business representatives attended the meeting to speak on the issue.

Borrowing language from a similar ordinance in Aspen, the starting point to define a formula/franchise business in Crested Butte is a “restaurant or retail commercial establishment that has ten or more other establishments in operation … and that maintains two or more of the following features: a standardized array of merchandise or menu items, standardized array of services, a standardized façade, a standardized décor and color scheme, uniform apparel, standardized signage, a trademark, or service mark.”

The motivation behind the proposed moratorium is to figure how to limit the number of franchise businesses allowed in Crested Butte so as to protect the local business district and overall character of town that is a designated National Historic District.

Despite the popular notion that franchises are not currently permitted in Crested Butte, there are several such businesses located in town, such as the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and True Value.

But council members recently held a pow-wow with officials from towns such as Park City, where Vail Resorts purchased the nearby ski area. The proliferation of franchise-type businesses was one warning Crested Butte officials took away from the conversation, so they want to get out ahead of the situation.

“We want to emphasize that this is intended to protect our businesses,” said councilman Kent Cowherd. “We are looking for their support and engagement. We are not seeking to ban franchises from town. We already have several. But we want to take an inventory of what we have and determine what would be appropriate for Crested Butte.”

Mayor Jim Schmidt emphasized that in discussions with officials from communities that had been affected by a sale  of the resort to Vail, the business community lobbied for such regulations limiting franchises.

Town manager Dara MacDonald said a moratorium gives council time to do just that. “It is a tool for a time-out while you decide what you ultimately want to do,” she told the council. “The proposed moratorium ordinance directs the town to gather input from local businesses, property owners, visitors and citizens about their thoughts regarding franchises. Chris [Haver] and I have spoken with Ashley [UpChurch] at the chamber of commerce and we will set up meetings to engage the public about their thoughts on the matter. Ultimately it will go to BOZAR and then to the council.”

The moratorium “is directed solely at restaurant and retail,” added councilman Chris Haver. “It leaves out things like service businesses such as real estate offices or a carpet cleaning business.”

In a memo to the council, MacDonald wrote at least 30 jurisdictions across the country have some sort of regulations governing formula businesses. The thought is to preserve businesses with unique local character, avoid the generic appearance of storefronts in town and potentially minimize the escalation of rents associated with the demands created by national chains.

While the town tried to get the word out to some local stakeholders about the upcoming issue, no business representatives attended the September 17 meeting to address the issue. The council will look for more public input during the official public hearing scheduled for October 1.

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