Smiling store keeper in his supermarket
Photo by Minerva Studio • ThinkStock

I’ve lived in Bozeman, Montana since 1993. It’s a fabulous place to live. Great views, always something to do, great hunting and fishing, skiing.

No wonder it’s often called The Last Best Place on Earth.

Our Own Worst Enemy?

Sometimes I wonder what our leaders are thinking. Don’t get me wrong many of the laws and ordinances that have been put in place have made Bozeman a beautiful city.

But every so often our Bozeman design police (otherwise known as the City Planning Board) go overboard in their architectural and design demands.

Their latest conquest — ?

WinCo Foods.

“WinCo Foods, Inc. is a privately held, majority employee-owned American supermarket chain based in Boise, Idaho with retail stores in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. It previously operated stores as Waremart Food Centers and Cub Foods (under a franchise agreement) until 1999. As of July 2016, it has 107 retail stores and five distribution centers with over 15,000 employees.” (Source)

Unfortunately no employees from the Gallatin Valley will be future employees.

WinCo has decided to pass on opening a store in our city. Why you ask?

“WinCo has withdrawn,” said Randy Twist of Texas-based Twist Realty. “The city was asking them to do some architectural and design things they weren’t comfortable doing.”

In a September memo, city planners asked WinCo to provide additional landscaping and design effort beyond what was detailed in the company’s initial plan, adding more windows and taking “a creative approach to the palette of building materials.”

“Provide (an) innovative building design representing Bozeman’s unique urban design character — as opposed to standardized franchise architecture,” planners wrote. (Source)

Which is more important? Since when does a unique urban design trump jobs for our citizens? We did bamboozle Walmart into making a unique urban design rather than their standard franchise architecture.

And the Walmart store is an attractive store. Rosauer’s food store had a similar battle with the city over things like numbers of trees and landscaping demands.

As a result Helena will be the recipient of the jobs when they build the first WinCo Food store in Montana — Not Bozeman.

I guess Helena didn’t demand as many trees.

Some Final Thoughts

No one wants an eyesore building in the middle of our beautiful city. But looking at the design submitted it’s far from an ugly, nondescript block building.

The design submitted looked pretty attractive to me. Where does the planning board go from here? — Roman columns and Gargoyles on the corners of all future construction? I think we’re stretching things a little.

These companies want to be good citizens. They bring what they feel is an asset to our community. Plus they bring good paying jobs and chances for advancement in those jobs.

It’s a majority employee owned company. Isn’t that the kind of company we should be attracting rather than send packing?

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