Task force rejects Portland chain store restrictions

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PORTLAND — The task force created to research and recommend a course of action for the city on regulation of chain stores and franchise restaurants voted April 23 against imposing any restrictions.

The Business Diversity Task Force rejected two proposals that would have placed the special restrictions on formula businesses.

The first proposed ordinance would have required property owners downtown to market their storefronts exclusively to non-chain businesses for six months before engaging in lease discussions with a formula business.

The second proposal the task force rejected would have forced formula businesses looking to locate downtown to obtain conditional use approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Instead, the task force unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council support several incentive programs aimed at fostering independent business creation and growth.

“We basically rejected all the restrictions and supported all the incentives,” said City Councilor David Marshall, a chairman of the 15-member committee.

Proposed incentives forwarded to the council include:

• Increasing funding for the city’s facade improvement program.

• Developing an independent business incubator.

• Working with the Economic Development Division to attract independent businesses.

• Instructing the Purchasing Department to add more independent businesses to its list of suppliers.

• And instructing Economic Development to work with the Portland Community Chamber and Buy Local to organize seminars.

The Business Diversity Task Force was created in February 2007 following City Council repeal of the short-lived Formula Business Ordinance. That ordinance prevented formula businesses from locating downtown unless they met a set of strict requirements. It also limited the number of chains allowed.

The ordinance was enacted in the fall of 2006, shortly after a Congress Street business owner announced he was considering opening a Hooter’s restaurant.

While the task force discussed several options during its meetings, some members felt the process was dragging on too long. After the group did not meet in February or March, Councilor Dan Skolnik – a member of the task force – asked his fellow councilors to support an order that would force the task force to forward its recommendations to the council by June 1. That order was approved by the council earlier this month.

Marshall said he expects the task force recommendations to go before the council in May.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at  781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net