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2006-12-30
Chelan, WA. Citizens Score Dramatic Courtroom Victory Over Wal-Mart

Citizens in Chelan, Washington have won a "white knuckle" victory, preventing a Wal-Mart superstore from opening just weeks before its ribbon-cutting. A court ruling has, at least for now, thrown the completed project into limbo. On February 19, 2005, Sprawl-Busters presented the story of the town of Chelan (pop 9000), which has just learned that a Wal-Mart SuperStore was coming to town. Chelan is a classic small town that has resisted allowing chain food stores in the past. It's a tourist and apple farming community. Tourists come to enjoy the small town feeling and the beautiful Lake Chelan on the edge of the Cascade mountains. On August 18, 2006, we reported that a citizen's group, the Defenders of Small Town Chelan, had filed a lawsuit against the City of Chelan, seeking to invalidate the building permit granted to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart had gone ahead to build a 162,000 sq foot building in a zone that was approved for buildings up to 50,000 square feet in size on lots up to 5 acres. According to the brief, which was filed in Chelan County Superior Court, the city approved this megastore "without public hearings, (and) without an opportunity to bring an administrative appeal." A 162,000 s.f. store, with an 809 car parking lot, on an 18 acre site was far larger than the 5 acre limit, and was more than three times beyond the 50,000 sf. limit on store size found in the binding site plan. The Defenders of Small Town Chelan sent us the following update: "Yesterday, December 29, 2006, Judge Leslie Allan of the Superior Court in Wenatchee, Washington ruled that the building and fill and grade permits issued by the City of Chelan to Wal-Mart for its 162,000 square foot supercenter were invalid. After the challenge was filed by the Defenders of Small Town Chelan, earlier this year, Wal-Mart pressed ahead and built the enormous structure with seeming disregard for this court challenge. The store was set to open in the next month. In its decision, the court found "that the city adopted a 50,000 s.f. limit on commercial buildings when it approved the planned development district and the development agreement." The court also ruled that the city's approval of a Wal-Mart building permit and grading and excavation permit was improper and unlawful. The court said that the city did legally enter into a site agreement in October of 2005, and that citizens did not challenge that agreement. But this 2005 agreement "does not include a depiction or description of the size of the proposed Wal-Mart building." Although the 2005 agreement did alter the lot sizes, it "did not mention or incorporate the 162,000 s.f. building size," so the court concluded that the agreement with the city "did not change the previously adopted 50,000 s.f. commercial building limit." The judge said that the "court is left with the definite and firm conviction that the city erred in granting the two permits at issue... the city adopted a 50,000 s.f. limit on commercial buildings... that limit was not changed by any subsequent action by the city." The city failed to recognize that it had adopted a 50,000 s.f. limit and then failed to enforce that condition when it granted the two permits. This "constituted a decision that was clearly erroneous," Judge Allan wrote. The citizens were "entitled to its requested relief: an order reversing the city's granting of the building permit and the excavating and grading permit."

What you can do: This ruling nullifies the two permits the city issued on April 20 and May 1, 2006 to Wal-Mart. The excavating and grading permit was one, and the building permit for a 162,000 s.f. retail store was the second. It is not clear what the developer, Pacland, Inc. and Wal-Mart will do now with their completed store. Presumably they will appeal this decision to a higher court. But the Defenders of Small Town Chelan have scored a dramatic last minute victory in court against a supercenter just about ready for a ribbon-cutting. Many people in Chelan might have thought the citizens were whistling in the wind, but their perseverance is the only thing that has ruined Wal-Mart's celebration. To see the judge's opinion, go to:
http://www.lcvca.org/files/documents/Judge_Allan_Decision.pdf










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

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