Who remembers why we created the Cape Cod Commission more than 20 years ago?
It was to keep out the big box stores. There is only one reason that Lowe’s is locating a store on Cape Cod, and that’s to take over $5 million of profit off Cape annually.
It’s taken this long for the economy of Cape Cod to outpace the brakes that we applied to it back then by creating the Cape Cod Commission. It is apparently worth it for a big box retail store to spend upwards $10 million in offsetting fees and costs, in order to extract that amount of money off Cape every year thereafter.
Lowe’s needs to buy cheaper, pay less, and sell more
To accomplish this feat, Lowe’s needs to buy cheaper, pay less, and sell more. In the process of creating those efficiencies, they will also create negative impacts on the community. The efficiencies include concentrating sales in one place with fewer employees; the impacts are more traffic congestion and unemployment.
Lowe’s can sell goods cheaper because they can buy more and pay suppliers less than their competitors. Their prices are cheaper because they hire fewer workers to sell more goods to more customers, while bringing all their customers together in one place, and all the resulting traffic, to one location.
Imagine all the customers that are spread out all over the Cape shopping at small businesses, all driving to Route 134 in Dennis to shop on a Saturday afternoon. Lowe’s admits they need 7,000 traffic trips on Saturdays in the summer to generate the revenue they need to sustain the sales and thereby the profit they seek on Cape Cod.
Other Lowe's are in Wareham and Kingston
If a Lowe’s store falls short of its projected sales, it will not stay open. Lowe’s opens several stores in the same area; Wareham and Kingston are the closest to Cape Cod.
Then once the market has been saturated, the Lowe’s store that does not perform as well closes. The small businesses forced to close and the jobs lost in the process of capturing the market, guarantee that the surviving Lowe’s stores will succeed. This is a business practice some call predatory.
Lowe’s promises that they will hire at least l00 local job seekers. No doubt, but given that the some if not all of their sales will come at the expense of small businesses, some if not all of the jobs will come from these existing employers as well. Except it won’t be the same workers that will move over to Lowe’s. It will be new workers willing to work for less, thereby eliminating the higher paying jobs our small business owners currently offer.
Not only will Lowe’s not create new jobs, but if one of their other stores closes in favor of keeping the Cape store open, Lowe’s could offer to transfer those Lowe’s employees currently living off Cape, to the Dennis store; a double net loss to local employment.
Commission has not kept its promise
This is fight over who gets to sell what here. And the Cape Cod Commission is the referee. So far the Cape Cod Commission has not proven itself capable of keeping the promise to its makers.
If this development were to go forward, it would be the single largest box store to open on Cape Cod ever, creating some of the greatest traffic in the area’s history, and risking some of the greatest destruction to the Cape’s economy since the Commission’s inception. This is not what the locals had in mind when they created the Cape Cod Commission.
To date, the Cape Cod Commission’s review of this project has not gone well, even though the Commission has bent over backwards to accommodate the applicant. The complete failure of the applicant to provide adequate traffic mitigation for the project was brought to the attention of the Commission by the traffic consultants hired by groups opposing the project. This resulted in the withdrawal of the incomplete application by the applicants to address the deficiency, in effect creating a timeout in order to finish their homework.
A summer Saturday traffic jam is bad for tourism too
You don’t need to be a traffic expert to know there’s a bottleneck at Exit 9 almost every Saturday during the summer. Will 7,000 more cars coming and going improve the traffic around Exit 9? Tourism is, after all, the Cape’s largest revenue generator. Let’s not poison the well by making a well-known bottleneck even worse.
It’s not possible to add 7,000 car trips on a Saturday in summer on Route 134. That’s why Lowe’s offered to pay tribute fees beyond the nominal roadway improvements that they propose. It is apparent to most observers that the project cannot adequately mitigate the traffic it will generate, which resulted in the offer of a pay off. According to its own regulations, this alone should require the Commission to fail the project.
Ironically, the traffic congestion Lowe’s will create will affect the neighboring Patriot Square development, which would normally be screaming bloody murder about the impacts of such a behemoth of a project, except that Patriot Square is ostensibly the developer and financial beneficiary of this building as well.
Arguments for it don't ring true
Some of the arguments proponents make in favor of the project do not ring true. For example, Lowe’s will bring in more tax revenue to the town. The site currently brings in rent for its owners and tax revenue for the town. Any future development in its place will bring in additional rent to its owners and tax revenue to the town. Maybe not as much as Lowe’s, but certainly without the detrimental impacts to the town either.
100 jobs at Lowe’s, some part time, some seasonal, are not the jobs that will attract or keep young workers and their families on Cape Cod. A homeowner’s desire to buy cheaper lawn furniture or garden supplies for their second home is not as compelling as the employee selling it to him who will not be able to afford to live here as a result.
Lowe’s has the perverse affect of making the cost of living cheaper only for those who can afford the cost of living on Cape Cod in the first place.
This impact of the loss of jobs on the economy can only be addressed by the Cape Cod Commission, not by town boards. But the pleas of local employees and their employers seem to ring hollow with the aged Commission members, who may not have come to the Cape as employees or business owners, but as retirees.
Commissioners are hard of hearing
If the previous Lowe’s public hearing held by the Commission is any indication, the Commissioners are truly hard of hearing. The decision to limit public testimony at a public hearing because too many people showed up to testify is ill tempered and ill advised. Let’s hope the Commission staff can get its act together, and conduct a professional and businesslike review from this point on.