Calling Eve & any other editors/grammarians/experts—help me w/ insane sophist


Company X is applying for a “planned shopping center.” Our ordinance defines this as

The applicant says its project, which is one store (w/ a detached gasoline station) satisfies this definition:

This is insane, isn’t it? One (or more) buildings having grouped retail stores requires there to be multiple stores because the definition has the plural s on the end of store. Right? (And is group a transitive verb in this sense (since stores can’t group themselves), therefore somethings need to be grouped?)

Now, there are some other complications, such as so-called outlots which the applicant may or may not build, depending on its whim. But essentially, all that we know the applicant intends to build is the main store & gasoline station. Indeed, the applicant goes on to say

So, now the definition contradicts itself.

I just don’t know how to reply to this. How do I explain, in technical terms that are irrefutable, that “one or more buildings…having grouped retail stores…” means that a single store is not acceptable?

Or am I completely wrong?


I think you’re right. Even though the definition of a planned shopping center includes a one-building development, it clearly says that the single building must include grouped retail stores and/or service establishments (such as a shopping mall). Single-building development does not equal single-store development.

I’d say that this:

having grouped retail stores and service establishments…

… allows you to require two retail stores and two service establishments as a minimum. :slight_smile:

God knows, I’m no Eve, but – stores and service establishments – yanno, plurals on both – seems to imply that you’d have more than one of each. You’re calling for a multiplicitiy of businesses, which may or may not involve a multiplicity of buildings.

(Don’t y’all have a lawyer for stuff like this?)

This is a matter for a lawyer, not a grammarian, but your average English speaker would say you’re right: one thing is not a group.

Yes and no. The law uses language and grammar (or whatever…syntax? Lord, I don’t know) does play a part. While this may end up in court, right now it is at the local gov’t. review and those are the people to whom I must speak.

But the definition does NOT say a Planned Shopping Center can be a one-store development. It says it can be a one-building development. There is a huge difference.

You are right. Company X is wrong. The phrase "A development of one or more buildings on a single site having grouped retail stores and service establishments… " means “A development of one or more buildings on a single site WHICH HAS grouped retail stores (plural) and service establishments (plural).” I can’t see how anyone can interpret the original statement to mean that the developement can consist of one store.

Isn’t a “development” in real-estate parlance more than “one” of something anyway? You can’t have a housing “development” with just one house. How can a “shopping center” consist of one store? Isn’t a “shopping center” by definition someplace with more than one store? Even if they are all in one giant building. Home Depot, sitting out there all alone, would never be considered a shopping center.

Just tell them that adding an “s” at the end of a word means it’s plural, and that plural is more than one. How dumb can they get!!!

Is there some advantage to them for having a planned shopping center over whatever other entity that business might use, in other words, why do they want this?

What are the implications of the planned shopping center, anyway? Is the lot zoned only for that, and not a single store?

I’ve seen lots of service stations that have a minimart and, inside, some unrelated franchise store like Dunkin Donuts or Subway. Would that fall into the “multi-store” criteria?

I think this guy’s trying really hard to make the definition read the way he wants to, but I don’t think he’s correct. But here’s what I think he’s seeing:

A development of one or more buildings on a single site having grouped retail stores [or] service establishments…

Obviously, the first part could indeed be interpreted that only a single building is required to meet the definition. But I think he’s flat-out wrong if he’s saying the second part, the part about grouped stores, is met by a store alone, or a store with another building for a gas station.

Obviously, he doesn’t think the descriptive phrase (clause?) “grouped retail stores” applies to each member of the plural noun “buildings”. He wants it to read “group of retail stores”, in which case his very small group of two would technically fit. If he were to attach the two (store and gas), make two entrances but have them share a wall, I think he’d be within the definition. But two separate, single use buildings are clearly not a grouped retail store or a group of grouped retail strores.

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the grammarians!

Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment, being scribbled o’er with run-on sentences, contradictory statements, poor punctuation and such confusing phrasing that, had he doth read; would make Aelius Donatus spin in this grave.

Yeah. But this is how they are operating and so I was wondering if there were some more technical explanation to really, well, over do it. In the world of local politics, sometimes one has to do this sort of thing.

Yep. An applicant in that zoning has to get approval of a planned shopping center before a building permit can be issued for the various uses listed. The applicant bought the property under this set of rules—nothing has been changed on them—and I think they just didn’t read the ordinance before making the purchase.

Come again? What have you done to me?! And I even left out a further part of the definition,because it was sort of recursive and I didn’t want to complicate things even more.

Okay…“a development of one or more buildings on a single site having grouped retail stores…” Okay, the phrase having grouped retail stores… is an adjective phrase that modifies something, right? And it modifies the single site, otherwise it would be dangling (or split?). Right? Are you suggesting that it should modify one or more buildings? Oops, do we have a squinting modifier? Crap.
Serenity Now!!
This is yet another example why grammar, punctuation, usage, style, and all that stuff cannot be dismissed when reading and writing laws.

Crap. You mght be right. I was reading it as “A group of one or more buildings located on a single site *and *having grouped retail stores.” That is, the buildings are located on a single site and the buildings contain grouped retail stores.

But if it’s the site that has grouped retail stores, then I’m not sure why he’s wrong, actually. There’s still the notion that “grouped retail stores” have to be on the site, and so then we have to figure out what “Grouped” means. Does it mean a building with separate entrances and a sharedwall? Or does it mean a multiple buildings? He wants to build a group of two stores: a main store and a gas station. Not what I think of when I think of a strip mall, but it is a group of two retail stores in one location.

So, if the correct parsing is indeed that the grouped store modifies the site, then the real question is what is a grouped store.

I am not a lawyer, real estate agent or grammarian. I may well be an idiot.

The gas station has to be a separate retail unit, otherwise, a 7/11 would qualify.

Well, the two would be under the same store: the main building and the gas station are the same company.

A group of two may be feasible based of what I’ve given, but the part that I didn’t want to complicate with said that a planned shopping center includes a local shopping and a regional or community shopping center, which have their own definitions. Because of that a group of two would really be pushing it—especially because in this case it would be one store spread over two buildings.

Welcome to the club.

You can’t have “a” grouped store any more than you can have “a” collected work of Charles Dickens. “Grouped” means there are more than one of them: they are in a group.

Pending comments by Elmwood, plnnr, or other city-planner Dopers: “Planned” in land use law is a term of art, and refers to the idea that the development in question has been designed professionally with a specific land use-related purpose. It has no necessary reference to size, multiple uses, number and size of structures, etc., but rather references the idea of a development presented to a Planning Board or Commission for review as a single unit. The redevelopment of a military base or of a vacant big-box store building may be a planned development; the distinguishing feature is that a single plan for the entire area in question is presented as a single unit for a single review.

I’ll have to check that out.

In the mean time, laws often define their own termonoligoies … er … termono … um … lexicons. So building height, for example, is specifically defined in the ordinance and that is the legally binding usage. For terms that are not explicitly defined, the ordinance instructs that one turn to a general usage English dictionary. (I used the OED for the definition of grouped.) My point being that Planned Shopping Center is defined in the ordinance, so, as I understand it, that is the definition that we have to work with.

Which is not to say that you are incorrect: the term planned shopping center is defined in the planning literature, for example, and I get the impression that whether it corroborates (sp?) our definition may ultimately be relevant.