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2006-02-25
Gresham, OR. Honey, We Shrunk the Wal-Mart

The Incredible Shrinking Wal-Mart has come to Gresham, Oregon -- but not without some considerable arm-twisting. The Oregonian newspaper reported this week that Wal-Mart, in a desperate attempt to gain approval to build a store on 182nd Avenue, has cut the size of its first proposal (which was rejected) by lopping off 88,000 square feet. As Sprawl-Busters has reported, Wal-Mart was denied its first permit because the anticipated traffic was too intense for the location. That decision didn't sit well in Bentonville, so Wal-Mart appealed the rejection to the city's hearing officer, and lost a second time. Instead of leaving town at that point, Wal-Mart purchased the land (rather than lose it to a competitor) and shrunk the store. What was a 210,000 s.f. superstore is now "only" a 122,000 s.f. superstore. Just to keep things in perspective, the lastest plan is still the size of 2.5 football fields, not counting the huge parking lot. Wal-Mart has closed stores this size recently, to build larger superstores. Instead of having two parking levels under the store, total parking available has been cut from 878 spaces, to 511 spaces, with only one level below the store, and a 193 space surface lot in some of the freed-up space from the smaller footprint of the store. The developer, Pacland, says that cutting store size by 42% will cut traffic by 50%, but opposition groups, led by Gresham First, doubted there was a direct correlation between the reduced store size and reduced traffic. Very few consumers can look at a building and see 122,000 s.f. vs. 210,000 s.f., and basing traffic reduction on the scale change would have to be verified by independent traffic counts at similar sized Wal-Marts of both sizes. Javon Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Gresham First, told Sprawl-Busters that Wal-Mart is not required to hold another meeting for all neighbors, but the Neighborhood Associations recognize the community interest and will host a joint meeting in March to offer details of the plan, and also how
residents can get involved in the decision making process. Gilmore said the assumptions about reduced traffic at the smaller store "doesn't work for Gresham First, and will be
reviewed carefully by our traffic expert, Rick Nys of Greenlight Engineering. Proximity to other Wal-Marts and demand will not change with the store size, and therefore trips generated by a smaller footprint store will not necessarily be reduced proportionately. Congestion may even be worsened by the decreased parking and access." According to Gresham First, a variety of factors motivated members of the community to oppose the
development of a supercenter in this location, and Gresham First plans to continue its mission of promoting quality development. In their first year, the group has organized a strong group of residents, business owners, land use activists, and neighborhood representatives to raise public awareness of the proposed development, analyzed the impact on the community, and organize appropriate action by concerned citizens. Neighborhood leaders from three Associations were given a preview of plans this week. During Wal-Mart's first application, all three neighborhoods held official votes to oppose the project.

What you can do: Drawings of the new Wal-Mart are available on the citizen's website at www.greshamfirst.org/walmart.htm. The group is asking residents to sign a petition that says: "We, the undersigned, do hereby oppose the approval of a development permit for a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the following described property: SOUTHEAST CORNER OF 182nd AVE and POWELL BLVD. The proposal is unsuitable to the requirements of the Community Development Plan for reasons not limited to: overcrowding of the land and undue congestion of population, with particular regard to the avoidance of congestion in the streets and highways as well as pedestrian traffic, to prevent the pollution of air, streams, and ponds; to assure the adequacy of drainage facilities; to safeguard the water table; and to encourage the wise use and management of natural resources throughout the city in order to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the community and the value of the land, to provide for open spaces through the most efficient design and layout of the land and to provide beneficial development of all parts of the community, while preserving the density of land as established in the Community Development Plan." For earlier stories, search Newsflash by "Gresham."










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

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