Ten Basic Strategies for Responding to Chain Drugstores

The National Trust continues to develop approaches and resources to help communities respond to chain drugstores. The following are basic strategy suggestions to help communities prepare and organize their efforts in protecting historic resources from chain drugstore proposals.


Monitor demolition permits, building permits, and site plan applications in the planning, zoning, and building departments. Study your regulations. Board and commissions need legal reasons to turn down an application or to require modifications.


Form an organization or committee to spearhead all efforts. Give your group a name that will establish a positive identity at public hearings and in the press.


Try to cast your message in a positive light. For instance, you are not against growth or development. You are for development that is compatible with community character and enhances your town's quality of life. You will want to attract others who may be sitting on the fence.


Make your case to the press. Write press releases and letters to the editor regularly. Make your points short and pithy, a lengthy analysis probably won't win the day. Always try to appear reasonable and sensible; you don't want to be labeled strident. Sometimes a meeting with your local newspaper editor or local board can influence their editorial opinions.


Find out if threatened buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. National Register listing or eligibility may influence editorials and public opinion. If federal funds are involved, the project will be subject to review by the State Historic Preservation Office. Call your State Historic Preservation Office.


Write a petition and conduct a signature drive for registered voters and property owners. Submit your petition to elected officials and enter it into the record at any public hearing. A large number of signatures can influence public officials and town boards or commissions. Petitions may also influence the press.


Form coalitions with the business community, local elected officials, state legislators, even congressmen or the governor's office. Obtain support from local, regional, statewide, and national preservation, environmental, and civic organizations.


Turn out your members and supporters in force for any relevant meetings and public hearings. This is important even if you will not be allowed to speak. Set up a phone tree to help muster your supports efficiently.


Coordinate your speakers at public hearings ahead of time. Make your points clearly and succinctly; cite or summarize specific regulations if you can. Always be courteous to members of the board or commission, even if you are angry. Submit your statements in writing, so that they become part of the file. (You may want to give written copies of your statements to any member of the press covering the meeting.)


Get a lawyer, pro bono if necessary.


Excerpted from Better Models for Chain Drugstores (Anne Stillman).