I recently received a press release from the Orton Family Foundation via RI-RESTORATION listserv announcing a new planning tool. Rhode Islanders have dealt with proposals for new major retail stores in several communities in the last few years, and I'm sure this will continue. So efforts to provide perspective on the full impact of this kind of development is welcome.
If (should I say, When[?]) big box development is an issue in your community, explore this resource. Better yet, check it out now for future reference. The Orton Family Foundation's website has other tools, several case studies, one of which is about Block Island. Their Web Resource Directory is also worth browsing.
Here is their press release:
"The tool that helps you learn about the impacts of big box retail stores"
Middlebury, VT -- The Orton Family Foundation enthusiastically announced its release of the Big Box Evaluator tool, designed to help communities and individuals learn about the impacts of big box retail stores. The unbiased tool is designed not to take a stand on big box development, but to help citizens make informed decisions based on each community's specific characteristics and values.
Available free to the public at www.bigboxevaluator.org, the web-based interface allows users to learn about commercial and retail development in general, but also to input specific information from their communities and receive customized reports on economics, values, planning and municpal services, and ways to improve the development process.
Citizens in communities facing proposals for big box development can select the type of town that most closely resembles their own, and the type of development proposed (neighborhood store to large "supercenter"). Users can then enter specific information and personal values in four categories (Economy, Environment, Society, and Visual), ranging from expected tax revenues to amount of signalized intersection work required, runoff mitigation requirements to the importance of community character.
The Big Box Evaluator creates a customized report for each user based on the specific inputs, with information like projected municipal costs and revenues, change in average wages, and annual price savings for family. Users are also given a list of action items based on the input values,which store developers can consider in order to help meet the community's concerns.
The Orton Family Foundation is a Colorado- and Vermont-based operating foundation supported by profits from the Vermont Country Store.
For more information contact: The Orton Family Foundation
PO Box 111
Middlebury, VT 05753