No: Large retailers will benefit the city
As I read the Saturday, June 5 front page article in the News-Sentinel headlined "Group plans to go forward with initiative," I started thinking about the term "free enterprise."
The big-box initiative sponsored by the Small City Preservation Committee will have a profound effect on free enterprise in the city of Lodi, and not in a positive way. The irony is that free enterprise, which the proposed initiative restricts, has contributed greatly to the foundation, growth, and beauty of Lodi today.
Free enterprise gave the city of Lodi the ability to purchase and operate their own electric utility, a move that will forever have a positive effect on the residents and businesses in Lodi. Free enterprise, along with individuals with vision and determination, developed such great assets in our community as Hutchins Street Square and the All Veterans Memorial. Even Lodi Lake, originally created by private entity and eventually acquired by the city, owes its existence to free enterprise.
Free enterprise has spawned the development of some great businesses in Lodi - Wine & Roses, the downtown theater complex, School Street Bistro to name but a few.
I ask all voters in Lodi to examine their own personal situation - their jobs, their home, their investments, and their hobbies, and ask themselves whether they're better off because of free enterprise with little or no restrictions.
Do the voters of Lodi really want to send the message that new business isn't welcome here?
That message is clearly stated in the initiative.
Why would a large-sized business go through two to three more years and at least $150,000 more to develop a project in Lodi versus a neighboring city that doesn't have a large retail initiative?
The waves of competition are lapping at our doorstep - look at the Highway 12-Interstate 5 and Interstate 5-Eight Mile Road areas. It is inevitable that retail areas will develop just outside Lodi's boundaries. The consequence of this will be all of the congestion without benefit of the revenues to mitigate it.
This poorly written initiative wrongly assumes that the city of Lodi is in complete control of its destiny. Outside forces, including the city of Stockton, San Joaquin County, Sacramento County, Elk Grove, and Galt are ready and willing to take what the city of Lodi won't in terms of sales tax revenue, property taxes, and vehicle license fees.
The economy of Lodi does not stop at the city limits - in our increasingly mobile society, customers have no problem driving a half an hour to get what they want or need if they can't get it locally.
Architectural and site planning guidelines for businesses, large and small, retail and office, are a great idea. The Planning Commission and the city staff have adopted such guidelines, which will insure that new or remodeling businesses incorporating large building and/or outdoor display areas will be aesthetically pleasing. Restricting free enterprise within the city limits of Lodi is a bad idea, which is what this particular big-box initiative is attempting to do.
If the voters of Lodi want new amenities such as an aquatic center, indoor sports facility, more law enforcement, and better emergency medical and fire response, the dollars will have to come from business growth, as there is no money to pay for them within the existing budget.
Even if you don't desire anything to change, the cost of maintaining what we have today in terms of parks, recreation programs, maintenance of streets, electric and water service is increasing faster than the generation of income to the city.
Therefore, just to maintain the status quo, business growth must continue. With the exception of gas stations, the physically large businesses in Lodi create the majority of the city's revenue, including sales tax, property tax, and vehicle license fees. These businesses are key to growing the city's revenue, not to mention job growth.
Large businesses create an opportunity for small ones. Sales of new autos, for example, create the need for smog shops, tire stores, gas stations, repair shops, parts stores, auto glass shops, insurance businesses, lenders, used car lots, detailer shops, car washes, body shops, tow services, and more.
A large retail store creates the presence of customers for restaurants and specialty stores. This is the free enterprise system doing what it is supposed to do - create opportunities for individuals, communities, and businesses.
Restricting large businesses just because they are large is the wrong approach to preserve this "small city."