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2007-04-11
Vancouver, WA. County Sides With Wal-Mart Opponents

Sprawl-Busters reported on December 17, 2005 that a group called the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association (FNA) had organized in response to a Wal-Mart supercenter proposed for Northeast 134th Street beside the Holiday Inn Express in Vancouver, Washington. Residents opposed to the project complain that there is already a Wal-Mart within 2 miles of this proposed new store, and that even though this area just completed a road project to alleviate congestion, there is still a major traffic bottleneck in the Salmon Creek area -- without the planned Wal-Mart. The Oregonian newspaper reports this week that Clark County officials have sided with the neighbors, and have sent Wal-Mart's application back to a hearing officer, which could result in a new zoning hearing for the project -- more than 16 months after the plan was filed. On January 30, 2007, the hearing officer ruled in favor of Wal-Mart, but the neighbors appealed that ruling to the County Commissioners. The FNA charges that the project developer has not provided sufficient evidence to support its case, and that the stormwater and traffic plans are inaccurate. The three County Commissioners agreed with the neighbors, and on April 16th they are expected to decide to send the case back to the hearing officer. "If the examiner takes the hint, he may very well turn down the project," John Karpinski, the attorney representing the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, told the Oregonian. "It wasn't such a subtle hint."

What you can do: Once again Wal-Mart has gotten tangled up in a legal predicament, because they chose not to meet with local residents before submitting their plan. Responsible developers meet with neighbors, and before getting deeply committed to a project, get comments and opinions from the people who will have to live with their project. But this is not Wal-Mart's style. They give off a sense of entitlement, often hiding their presence from the neighbors, hoping to silently slip past the permitting process without the neighbors being alerted. But in Vancouver, as in hundreds of other communities across the state, once neighbors get Wal-Mart's scent, they kick into high gear. What should have been a two to three month permitting process swells into months, even years. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart stockholders don't seem to wonder why so many of their company's stores run into legal problems, driving the company's legal costs into the millions. One of the weakest parts of the retailer is its real estate division, which picks locations based solely on internal company needs -- not neighborhood needs. In this case, there's a Wal-Mart only minutes away from this ill-fated site. Wal-Mart will probably never see the wisdom of negotiating with neighbors, so instead they end up in a prolonged legal battle that produces no sales for the company, and no dividends for the shareholders. Readers are encouraged to contact the Clark County Commissioners. Encourage them to send this case back to the hearing officer. The commissioners can be reached at: (360) 397-2232, or email them at: boardcom@clark.wa.gov.










 
 
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