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2006-12-10
Gresham, OR. Wal-Mart Appeals Rejection

Sprawl-Busters reported on November 16, 2006 that a Hearing Officer in Gresham, Oregon had ruled against a Wal-Mart supercenter in Gresham, closing out a two year battle by the retailer. In his 57-page decision, Hearing Officer Joe Turner said that the developer, PacLand, "failed to sustain the burden of proof that the car trip distribution estimates for vehicles leaving the site are accurate... " A combination of the developer's insubstantial traffic impact data, and the citizen group, Gresham First's, expert traffic analysis, left the Hearing Officer without solid evidence that the impact on this intersection would meet the city's traffic standards. Many other issues were raised, but as the Hearing Officer noted, "Opponents of the proposed development raised a number of other issues including, but not limited to, potential environmental impacts, increased crime, visual impacts, tree removal and impacts on the locally economy and businesses. Those issues were not raised in the Notice Of Appeal and therefore are beyond the scope of the appeal." On December 6th, as expected, Wal-Mart appealed the Hearing Officer's decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). "We do not agree with the hearings examiner's decision on traffic," said a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. "We feel that, if traffic is viewed under normal conditions, our traffic study and plans are a good fit for the area." To protect its interests, Gresham First has appealed the decision also. "We are pleased with the latest outcome, but are concerned that the written decision is based on only one element of the project," said Gresham First. "The final decision should reflect the total picture of community level impacts such as traffic, safety and livability. The city of Gresham has an opportunity to set the tone for what developers can get away with and how we will protect our neighborhoods from poorly planned projects," The citizen's group told the Gresham Outlook newspaper that the city should have used stricter guidelines when reviewing the Wal-Mart application, since the site falls into a commercial and a community mixed-use zone. The latter prohibits large retail use, but Wal-Mart had proposed putting its parking lot and driveway in that zone. "The parking lot is not a stand-alone project," Gresham First noted. "Its only purpose would be to serve the big-box retail. This would allow high-impact zoning uses to creep out into surrounding neighborhoods." Wal-Mart began in Gresham with a 212,000 s.f. store. When that was rejected, they returned with a 122,000 s.f. store. City officials accepted the smaller store, but residents appealed, and the Hearing Officer agreed with them. Wal-Mart told the newspaper, "... Our only choice on these types of decisions is to appeal to LUBA and then to court," Wal-Mart said. The retailer appealed a similar case in Bend, Oregon to the LUBA, but lost there. Gresham First explained that the neighborhood appeal "will ensure that all issues are discussed at LUBA, not just those raised by Wal-Mart; allowing the most comprehensive analysis of the project's impacts."

What you can do: A decision in this case is expected by March. The Hearing Officer had solid traffic reasons for rejecting this plan, and Gresham First has legitimate issues to add to the traffic problem. Wal-Mart is now costing the city and its residents more money in legal fees to pursue Wal-Mart through the courts. If the company had begun with a much smaller store, they could have saved two years and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales. For earlier stories, search by "Gresham."










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

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