The Somerville Board of Aldermen will consider restricting national chains in the city's business districts.
At a Somerville Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday night, the aldermen approved an order, proposed by Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, to have the city solicitor to provide "input on restricting formula businesses in Somerville by requiring specific review and oversight before they may enter central business districts."
"Formula businesses" are chain businesses.
Gewirtz, who represents Davis Square, said the recent opening of a Pinkberry, a frozen yogurt chain that has stores throughout the United States and in 18 other countries, led her to contemplate such restrictions.
With too many chain businesses "we become an outdoor mall and we become overrun with these national chains," she said.
She listed several locally owned and independent businesses in Davis Square, including Redbones, Foundry on Elm and Somerville Theatre, saying, "These are places that make people want to come to Davis Square."
Gewirtz said other communities in Massachusetts, including Nantucket, Barnstable and Chatham, restrict or outright ban formula businesses. Chatham, she said, has a permitting process for chains.
Gewirtz said she's not necessarily in favor of an outright ban, but "I'm certainly for some sort of special permitting process, maybe a partial ban."
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston said she was looking forward to discussing the proposal, saying that in other communities, businesses like Dunkin' Donuts "have to conform to a number of design elements" that make them "very aesthetically pleasing."
Somerville's chain businesses don't blend in as well, she said. She added that when driving around parts of Somerville she feels she "could be in Florida and driving around the Kmart in Florida."
So here's a question: Would you support restrictions on chain businesses in Somerville? If so, what sorts of restrictions would you want? A complete ban? A partial ban? A permitting process?