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2004-01-06
Hood River, OR. Wal-Mart Supercenter Rejected by County Vote.

Residents in Hood River, Oregon are partying tonight, after their two year battle with Wal-Mart ended with a vote turning the superstore down. Wal-Mart took a big fall in Hood River County,on January 5th. County officials voted 3-2 to reject a fiercely-opposed Wal-Mart supercenter. Here's the update from the Citizens for Responsible Growth: "In a vote of 3-2 on Monday night, the Hood River County Board of Commissioners reversed the county Planning Commission's conditional approval of a proposed Wal-Mart SuperCenter at Frankton and Country Club roads in west Hood River. The board ruled that the proposal was incompatible with the surrounding properties, a violation of city and county criteria for commercially zoned property. The Board also voted that Wal-Mart had failed to meet the burden of proof that its plans wouldn't eliminate floodwater storage at the site, and push flooding onto adjacent properties. Wal-Martıs plans provided for trucking in between 27,000 and 60,000 cubic yards of fill to lift the construction site about 2 feet above the existing terrain. ³This was a marvelous and gutsy decision by the board,² said Kate Huseby, co-chair of the Citizens for Responsible Growth, one of three appellants. We applaud them for doing their homework, and making the tough vote.² The City of Hood River and Wal-Mart also had appealed aspects of the Planning Commissionıs earlier approval. Wal-Mart officials failed to attend the session, citing inclement Gorge weather, but sent a fax in defense of their appeal. The board also took oral testimony from city councilor Linda Rouches and planning director Cindy Walbridge, and from Chris Cook, the land-use attorney for CRG, and its water consultant, Roger Sutherland. After a brief break to consider the evidence, the board then voted separately on four different issues under appeal. The board rejected one other appeal, that concerning impact of the proposed project on such natural features as Phelps Creek and the mature stands of trees in its riparian corridor. And it agreed with city concerns about a required traffic signal at Rand Road and Cascade Avenue, adopting language that requires Wal-Mart -- if it can overcome other hurdles to proceed with the project -- either to have a new signal installed, or produce new traffic research that says the intersection wonıt fail before a new store opens. In explaining his motion to reject the Planning Commissionıs decision on flood plain issues, commissioner Les Perkins noted that Wal-Mart has had two years to get an acceptable plan together. Based on evidence in the record, Perkins said, Wal-Mart hadnıt yet shown a plan or the possibility of a plan to offset the impact of its project on the flood plain. Perkins also cited language in the county code that requires a project to be compatible in ³height, bulk and scale.² He said the proposed 186,000-square-foot building clearly violated that language, because no other buildings of even remotely similar size are situated adjacent to or even near the site of the proposed store. Commissioner Carol York cited numerous inconsistencies in the material presented by Wal-Mart about how it hoped to deal with flooding impacts, in particular its contention that modifications to roadway culverts would allay concerns. And board chair Rodger Schock noted that the information presented by Wal-Mart over the last two years and numerous revisions to its plans still left him uneasy about how it could use so much fill and not affect the floodplain. Unless Wal-Mart appeals this decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, the companyıs application is dead. If Wal-Mart decides not to appeal, or appeals and loses, it must submit a new application to proceed with its project. A new application must abide by a county ordinance that prohibits commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet. The county commission approved this so-called ³big box² ordinance after Wal-Mart submitted its initial application nearly two years ago."

What you can do: I visited Hood River to speak out against this superstore, and help the CRG emphasize the problems with this plan. This is a very gratifying win for Hood River, a beautiful community trying to keep sprawl at bay. The CRG adds the following: "None of us knows at this point if Wal-Mart plans to appeal this decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals,² said Stu Watson, co-chair of the CRG. ³For now, weıre elated by this decision, and prepared to help the county defend it if necessary.² CRG attorney Chris Cook will assist Hood River county counsel in writing the final order. The County Commission is slated to sign the final order at its next meeting on Jan. 20. Wal-Mart will then have 21 days to determine whether it will appeal the countyıs decision."










 
 
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