Does the 40,000 square foot floor space limitation on retail enterprises help or hinder Kanab’s prosperity?

That question prompted many Kanab residents to voice their opinions at the February 11 Kanab City Council meeting before the council voted on the issue.

Mayor Robert Houston prefaced the open comments by saying he had talked with a WalMart representative in Hurricane and was told they need a base population of 50,000 before considering a city for a retail store. He also said the Hurricane store is not meeting its sales quota, and Kanab is not even on WalMart’s radar screen in the foreseeable future.

The rumor that Alco was searching for a Kanab location for a mid-sized variety store, was based on a visit by a broker with no ties to the store chain. Brokers scout communities for information they can convey to companies that might be interested in a new store location. Alco has not directly expressed an interest in bringing a store to Kanab, according to Houston.

City attorney Greg Hardman stated, “There could be legal challenges to the present 40,000 sq. ft. restriction, which could be construed as the city protecting existing businesses from competition.”

Mayor Houston voiced his take on any more legal challenges facing the city by saying, “I’ve spent most of my five weeks in office dealing with legal issues.”

Initiating the public comments was Deputy County Attorney Rob Van Dyke. “The present restriction is a protectionist regulation that reduces competition,” said Van Dyke. “Rescinding the limitation allows larger businesses to come in and promote more competition from local businesses. We saw how the new Texaco station affected gas prices here.”

Jeannie Hunt, Chamber of Commerce president and former co-owner with husband, Kent, of the recently-closed Radio Shack store, also believes the regulation is protectionist.

“WalMart is already here, along with Amazon,” said Hunt. “Radio Shack has closed 500 stores nationwide and JC Penney, Macy’s, Target and others are closing stores because they are not able to compete in the open market.”

Hunt continued relating her personal experience with the Radio Shack store that has been in Kanab for 33 years, with the Hunt’s operating it for the past 15 years. “We tried hard to stay open in a free enterprise environment and are grateful to people willing to open businesses in Kanab. There are obstacles like parking requirements that are hindering many of these efforts, and the Chamber is addressing these problems,” said Hunt.

Erin Robinson from the Department of Workforce Services, favored encouraging larger, year-round companies to locate in Kanab to improve employment opportunities for the local labor force.

Kane County Taxpayer Association President Sky Chaney said his research showed that revenue taken in by big chain stores largely leaves the community, rather than circulate through other businesses, as it does with locally-owned stores.

Kane County Tourism Director Ken Gotzen-Berg said the restriction risks big box stores taking their business to Arizona, along with the tax money.

“We are trying to promote Kanab as an all season tourist destination and are soliciting motel chains to locate here to facilitate that goal,” said Gotzen-Berg. “I like to support local businesses, but will admit that my wife shops weekly at WalMart for variety and price.”

Gary McBride believes it is more important to control the appearance of a new business so that it fits in with the city’s theme.

Colette Cox supports deregulation to promote growth and development.

Linda Alderman fears Kanab’s downtown could suffer the same loss of character she has seen in Page, Ephraim and Washington City from the location of a big box store on the outskirts of the town.

Honey’s Marketplace manager Sheldon Honey asked, “We need to decide how we want Kanab to be viewed 20 years from now. Closed local businesses do not appeal to tourists and more will fold if a big chain store moves in here.”

Amazing Earthfest originator Rich Csenge related how he sees the authentic heritage of America when he gets off the freeways and travels the back roads on his yearly business travels back to Maine. Csenge observed, “when these small towns accept a big retailer, many smaller stores close and these towns lose their authenticity and character and become the familiar homogenized America.”

Gay Baird, of Kanab Furniture, that has been in Kanab for 43 years, said, “People here scratch each others backs. Huge stores can erode this closeness and support.”

Dave Crosby of Crosby’s Hardware believes in Kanab’s independence saying that every dollar spent in local shops changes hands eight times locally before it leaves town. “Why would WalMart come here when we’re dumb enough to go there,” he emphasized.

The Kanab City Council members believed that anything restricting open competition and free enterprise should be eliminated, and rescinded the 40,000 sq. ft. limit on retail floor space.

In other action, the council approved appointing Jeff Yates to the Kanab City Planning Commission, and Marlene Barnes to the Kanab City Library Board.

It also supported making Barnes’ Kanab Class, which makes available free educational classes to the community, a subcommittee under the Parks and Recreation Board, thus making city-owned classroom facilities open to Kanab Class programs without cost.