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2006-09-17
Mill Creek, WA. Citizens Force County To Conduct Environmental Impact of Wal-Mart

Earlier this month, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that citizens in Mill Creek, Washington were objecting to the way development and decision-making on land use was happening in their community. A group call the Citizens for a Better Mill Creek organized to fight a proposed 149,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter proposed on the "old Buffalo Farm" site. The newspaper reported that the group had slammed the brakes on Wal-Mart by appealing its State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) application and insisting that the developer complete a full-fledged environmental impact study. The group gathered more than 5,700 petition signatures, and researched details of the harm this project would do to the environment. The site was originally supposed to be used for an office complex. The newspaper reported that one of the leaders of CBMC "pored over sites such as www.sprawl-busters.com" studying Wal-Mart's saturation strategy, and its habit of cannibalizing its own stores. Sprawl-Busters has just received the following update from citizens in Mill Creek regarding their victory at the state level in forcing Mill Creek not to take short-cuts with the environmental review process. Here's the CBMC update: "Our grassroots community group, Citizens for a Better Mill Creek, has scored at least a temporary victory and will delay groundbreaking on a proposed 148,600 sq ft 24/7 Wal-Mart store with associated parking on 17.4 acres containing, and adjacent to, wetlands, and across the street from two schools. We believe that the Wal-Mart store would have a significant adverse impact, and appealed the Snohomish County's decision that this project would have nonsignificant environmental impacts, upon mitigation. After about 23 hours in quasi-judicial open record hearings over a period of nearly 9 months, the Hearing Examiner has granted our appeal and the matter is remanded for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement to address impacts of stormwater drainage and traffic. We realize that we will need to be vigilant in analyzing the EIS and the subsequent review by the County Planning and Development Services (PDS) Department, since Wal-Mart or the developer most likely will submit a hasty, inaccurate, incomplete and biased EIS. Furthermore, the County PDS budget is funded in part by developers' mitigation fees, so the PDS may have a vested interest in expediting approval of developers' applications. We are glad that Washington State's Environmental Policy Act is alive and well, at least for now."

What you can do: Snohomish County was in such a rush to approve this Wal-Mart supercenter, that it tried to suggest a store the size of three football fields would have no impact on the environment. By coming up with a "nonsignificance" statement, the County was trying to end-run the state's entire environmental review process. It is only because of the work of the CBMC that a county Hearing Officer has thrown the case back to the County to do an Environmental Impact Study. In so doing, Wal-Mart, its developer, Gramor Development Northwest LLC, and the County, have wasted more than nine months of time trying to "save time" by short-circuiting the public review process. Ironically, their attempt to speed up the review has now cost them valuable time and money. As the CBMC points out, there is no reason to believe the developer or the County will conduct a meaningful EIS process. Without independent studies of the impact of this huge project, all local residents will get is self-serving findings from Gramor, which says that the project's impacts will all be insignificant. The citizens at that point will again have to spend time and money trying to make the process honest. If there had been no CBMC, this supercenter would have been clearing ground by now. For an earlier story on this community. Search Newsflash by "Mill Creek, WA."










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

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