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2003-05-17
Hillsboro, OR. Planning Commission Unanimously Turns Away Wal-Mart.

On May 14th, the Planning Commission in Hillsboro, Oregon unanimously turned thumbs down to a proposed 142,865 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter on commercially zoned land that was originally filed in the autumn of 2002. The developer asked the community to consider a second phase of the plan that would have added on a 67,290 s.f. grocery store, making the project a typical supercenter. Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, the site happens to be abutting significant residential property along two sides, and drew opposition from area homeowners and a private school. Residents asserted that the two lane roads leading to the site could not handle the expected traffic burden created by the superstore, which would have been the size of five football fields plus a parking lot for nearly 1,100 cars, all on 26 acres of land. Commission member John Coulter was quoted in the Oregonian newspaper as saying: "I think Wal-Mart is a company that would be valued in our community, but it has to be in the right place with the right situation," Commissioners also said the Wal-Mart location near a railroad station was incompatible with a use predominately automobile oriented. Although developers tried to convince the planning and zoning boards that commercial designation is all Wal-Mart needs, the reality is that many zoning ordinances allow communities to regulate size, scope and use of land -- even land designated for commerical use. In this case, Oregon statute allows local communities to reject a project if it is found to be inconsistent with local land use regulations, and the inconsistencies cannot be mitigated. Hillsboro Commissioners concluded that the proposed supercenter would require major road work, which was not feasible to complete. The day after the Planning Commission ruling, Wal-Mart appealed to the City Council, which could take up the appeal in July. Beyond that, Wal-Mart could take the case to court, but Wal-Mart opponents contend that the courts will support the city's ruling on its own zoning code. We think it's political suicide for the City Council to overturn this," one plan opponent told The Oregonian. Residents themselves already have a case in court -- a challenge to the city's rezoning of the land to commercial in the first place.



What you can do: This is a classic case of wrong size, wrong location. City officials questioned the wisdom of siting a huge store near a residential neighborhood at the intersection of a pair of two lane roads. Despite the fact that Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton said his company would not "create a fuss" if a city didn't want them, the company has a hair-trigger appeal mechanism, and will take their case to the City Council. Were the Council to reverse the unanimous vote of the Planning Commission, it is likely that the city would then find itself in the awkward position of being sued by its own taxpayers. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart says it has nowhere else to go. "We do not have an alternate site," Wal-Mart told The Oregonian. "We are committed to this site." Another unnecesssary fuss, brought to you by Wal-Mart stores, forcing the city to defend itself financially from Wal-Mart. For more background on this Hillsboro case, search Newsflash by the city's name.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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