Frequently Asked Questions

Q:     What is SHARE?

A:   SHARE (Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Expansion) is comprised of Simsbury residents who seek to promote responsible, well planned, economic development that generates net economic benefit and that is in keeping with Simsbury’s unique character and considers the long-term interests of the community.  SHARE believes that big-box and large scale retail development is inconsistent with that objective.

Q:     Is SHARE anti-development?

A:      No, SHARE is supportive of good development.  Good development is consistent with the character of our community, has a positive net economic impact, and minimizes non-economic costs.  Most large scale and large footprint retail development does not meet these criteria.

Q:     Wouldn’t a big-box or large format store bring in additional property tax revenue?

A:      Yes, a large big-box store would bring in incremental tax revenue (The Town of Simsbury in the latter part of the 2000's released estimates that put the increase in tax receipts at about $70 per Simsbury family).  This is considerably less than other types of development.  More importantly, such projects often result in a net annual loss to Simsbury.

When evaluating development opportunities, it is important to look at the net economic impact of a project and not simply the increase in revenue projections touted by the developer.   A 2002 report prepared by Tischler & Associates for Barnstable, MA showed that while a big-box would bring in $554 of revenue per square foot, it would be more than offset by increased costs of $1,024 per square foot.  This analysis only includes the economic effects on the town as a whole and excludes the economic effects on individual residents and the non-economic costs of the project.

Q:     Why would a big-box bring in less revenue than other types of development?

A:      Property tax is based on the value of the building; not sales or the merchandise stored in the building.  The taxing base for a big-box store is essentially just that; a big, hollow box.  Other types of development, including medical arts, office space, and light industrial bring in significantly more tax revenue per square foot than big-box retail.  A town can earn the same or greater tax revenue from development that has a significantly smaller footprint with substantially lower costs and lower lifestyle impact to the Town.

Q:     Why do many economists assert that big-box based economic development is not economic development at all?

A:      There are several reasons.  First, as discussed, from the standpoint of the town’s income statement, this type of development is more likely to result in a net loss than a net gain.  However the economic effects go far beyond the net loss to the town. 

When big-box based retail comes to town, it does not generate any additional spending.  Area residents have no more income to spend upon the arrival of a big-box, there is just another place to spend it.  However a dollar spent in a big-box store does not have the same economic effect as a dollar spent in a locally-owned business.  A study by the firm Civic Economics found that for every $100 spent at a local business an additional $68 in local economic activity was generated.  That $68 is a 58% increase in local economic activity than if the $100 was spent at a chain.

The reduction in local economic activity has a multiplicative effect.  It generally leads to a reduction in property values, and additional increases in taxes. These conditions in turn make the community less attractive to business which further increases taxes, potentially leading to a downward economic spiral.

Enfield is a good example of the false promise of large-scale retail development.  Though it has a huge retail sector anchored by several large chains (including Home Depot and Target), Enfield’s total mil rate is over 3% higher than Simsbury’s.  Potential big-box or large retail projects in Simsbury will not lower your taxes (just ask Canton residents if their taxes have decreases since the mall in Canton was built).

Q:     What are some of the economic costs of big-box development to the town and to residents?

A:      These costs include:

  • Infrastructure costs (some of these costs may be passed on to a developer)
    • Road expansion an maintenance – For very large scale retail, Route 10 (Hopmeadow Street) could need to become a 4-lane road; this may require the seizure of portions of property by eminent domain to do so.  The state or the developer may pay for changes to Hopmeadow Street, but Simsbury will be responsible for increased maintenance to access and adjoining roads.
    • Sewage/draining improvements and treatment as well as major sewer connectors along Route 10.
    • Substantial increase in demand and already taxed local electrical grid
  • Public safety costs
    • Additional police officers to respond to the hundreds of additional calls that come in each year from big-box stores (of the $1,024 per square costs cited above, $629 went to police, meaning the increase in police costs alone could offset more than all of the additional tax revenue)
    • Significant fire-related expenditures
      • Supplementing the volunteer fire department with a paid fire department
      • Purchase of special equipment (e.g. $20,000 extra-long hoses)
      • Replacing existing water mains with larger ones for proper fire coverage (inadequate water supply is being blamed for the 2004 fire that destroyed several small businesses on Hopmeadow Street)
    • Supplementing volunteer ambulance with paid ambulance service
  • Reduction in property tax revenue
    •  from residences whose property values have decreased
    • from downtown businesses whose property values have decreased because traffic congestion has made downtown a less accessible and enjoyable area to shop
  • Direct costs borne by Simsbury residents
    • Loss of property value
    • Higher property taxes
    • Increase homeowner’s and auto insurance costs for residences near the big-box due to higher crime rates
    • Loss of personal income from failed downtown businesses – most of the businesses are proprietor-run by local people; their loss of income will not be offset by the lower-wage jobs available at a big-box
  • Opportunity Costs – by squandering the use of available land on big-box based development instead of attracting business that would generate meaningful economic development, Simsbury would lose the opportunity to add potentially hundreds of high paying jobs, increase the tax base, increase property values, and preserve Simsbury’s unique character

Q:     What are some of the non-economic costs of big-box development?

A:      These quality of life costs include:

  • Landscape blight that necessarily comes with a big-box at the foot of Simsbury Mountain; as “big-box begets big-box” (e.g.  across the street from most Home Depots is a Lowe’s) this could well be the first step to sprawl up and down Hopmeadow Street
  • Increased crime that invariably comes with big-box retail (do a Google search on big box and crime)
  • Increased time spent in traffic
  • Increase in pollution
  • Safety issues – ambulances need to travel on or over Hopmeadow to get to a hospital from anywhere in Simsbury.  The increased traffic congestion will slow EMS response times and increase the time it takes to deliver critically ill or injured to a hospital.

Q:     If SHARE doesn’t like big-box and large format retail, what type of development should Simsbury be pursuing?

A:      Simsbury is not a town desperate for development at any cost.  We shouldn’t behave like it. Simsbury is rich in resources – we have a highly educated population, one of the state’s top public school systems, proximity to industry-leading companies, and a bucolic charm amongst increasingly boring, homogenous suburbs.  Plus Simsbury is immediately adjace to a major retail corridor on Route 44 in Avon and Canton where almost every possible type of retail already exists and there are many dozens of vacancies and available properties already.  Simsbury needs to capitalize on the opportunity to attract businesses that will add high paying jobs, increase the tax base (on a net positive basis), increase property values, and increase the overall quality of life.

The town must actively court these kinds of businesses and other similar ones.  To do so most effectively, SHARE would support retaining an economic consultant to determine the best industries and businesses to target as well how to best approach them.  Some areas to look at might include:

  • Insurance/financial services
  • High-technology manufacturing
  • Biotechnology
  • Fuel cells
  • Film/television production (thanks to generous new CT tax credits)
  • Medical spa
  • Conventional medical/healthcare facilities
  • High-tech agri-business
  • Community theater
  • Indoor sports facility
  • For-profit educational facility

Q:     Why are some local economists saying there is a retail glut in Connecticut?

A:      For several years, the growth in retail development has far outstripped Connecticut’s population or income growth.  The result is that there are simply too many retailers chasing the available dollars and retailers will fail until their numbers shrink to a number that can be supported by the population.  Big-box based retail development will hurt Simsbury in several ways:

  • Through the concerted efforts of the Town and the Main Street Partnership (funded in part by your tax dollars) Simsbury’s town center has been rejuvenated. A big-box complex will reduce the receipts of downtown businesses; some of them will fail.  Makers of the case for big-box retail often bemoan the fact that small businesses fail because they cannot compete on price.   While the lower prices available at a big-box (largely possible due to lower pay and a dearth of medical benefits) would certainly be responsible for some of the reduction in business, the real damage will come when Hopmeadow Street becomes a road that is simply too big and too busy to make downtown an enjoyable area to shop.
  • A big-box complex or the spread of big-box beyond Route 44 will inevitable cause existing retailers on Route 44 to fail.  As businesses fail, the after-effects of the retail glut will cause a commercial real estate glut.  Such an oversupply of retail and commercial space will have one of two outcomes; buildings will go vacant creating unsafe environments, or landlords will accept less desirable tenants.  Both result in a reduction of commercial and residential property values and tax receipts.
  • Any big-box itself or some of the retailers in a big-box complex may fail.  The Route 44 problems can become Hopmeadow Street problems.

Q:     What is SHARE’s position on “New Urbanism”?

A:      New Urbanism is an urban design movement that was created in reaction to sprawl and aims to reduce reliance on the automobile by creating communities where people can live, work, and play.  These projects emphasize walkability and are generally undertaken to revitalize distressed urban areas or in creating entirely new towns or communities.  SHARE certainly has no issues with these objectives.

One of the 13 new urbanism elements defined by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, two of the founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism, is an elementary school that the community’s children can walk to.   The only element of the 13 to discuss commerce states that “At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.”

New Urbanism is about creating communities.   Many developers who have expressed interest in Simsbury in recent years have attempted to co-opt a popular urban design movement as a marketing tool for their projects. Some developers talk about sprinkling a few apartments or condominiums around a big-box complex, not sprinkling the shops around a neighborhood.  There certainly won’t be any schoolchildren (design element 6) playing on any playgrounds (design element 7).   Urban planning semantics aside, who do youknow that is going to want to live next door to any big-box store if they can avoid it?

Q:     What can I do to ensure Simsbury focuses on positive economic development opportunities?

A:      Get involved!  Simsbury belongs to all of its citizens - not just the handful that hold elected or appointed office, but you need to make your voice heard.

  • Attend town meetings where land use topics and projects will be discussed – the best way to communicate what we want for our town is a room full of people.  If you get on the SHARE email list, you will receive notification of when and where critical meetings are being held.
  • Write letters to town officials that let them know you support only meaningful economic development and that Simsbury should undertake independent economic, traffic, and environmental impact studies as well as town-wide charrettes to determine which types of economic development make the best use of town resources.  Names and addresses of town officials are on the SHARE web site.

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EMAIL Us At: sharesimsbury@gmail.com