By ERIN MAYES
New retail stores in Tuolumne County can't be much larger than Sonora's Pak n Save if the county adopts proposed ordinances.
At 57,600 square feet, the grocery store is only 2,400 square feet smaller than the limit recommended by the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors Planning Committee. The proposed ordinance would hold large stores to 60,000 square feet.
Committee members have been working on the amendments since July, and almost finished yesterday. Most major requirements have been agreed upon, and the committee expects to wrap up its work in October.
Yesterday, panel members were divided over whether it is the county's responsibility to ensure success for small businesses and bring in big business.
Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce President George Segarini, in the audience, said he's against any law that sets square-foot limits.
"Simply because we don't know what all the potential businesses are out there," he said, "why not leave the option open to those possibilities? It's another roadblock into the economic base of the county as far as (the Chamber is) concerned."
Charlotte Hague, committee member and Jamestown planning commissioner, agreed.
"I certainly don't want to see us paved over," she said. "But are we business friendly? If we could get a Target and a Macy's, it would just generate so much money."
Hague argued that many residents leave the foothills to shop at so-called big box stores such as Home Depot.
Home Depot has an application in to the county for a 90,000-square-foot building, a 25,000-square-foot garden center and 7,000 square feet of outdoor sales, but the controversial project has been stalled in the planning process. County planners have been concerned about construction on the proposed site next to Hammond Ford on Mono Way, and many area residents have spoken against it.
But until businesses like Home Depot are allowed to open in Tuolumne County, said Hague, "our dollars are just going to keep leaving."