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2007-10-06
Vancouver, WA. “We kicked their ass,” Says Victorious Wal-Mart Opponent

On January 30, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that a hearing officer in Vancouver, Washington had ruled in favor of a Wal-Mart supercenter, but the neighbors appealed that ruling to the County Commissioners. The opponents charged that the project developer had not provided sufficient evidence to support its case, and that the stormwater and traffic plans were inaccurate. The three County Commissioners agreed with the neighbors, and in April of 2007 they sent the case back to a hearing officer. The retailer already has two supercenters in Vancouver literally minutes from the proposed site in the Salmon Creek area of Vancouver. This week, the Clark County Commissioners dunked Wal-Mart's plans in the creek. According to the Columbian newspaper, all three County Commissioners found plenty to not like in Wal-Mart's superstore saturation plan. The issues in dispute included storm water runoff, traffic safety, and even the credentials of the engineers hired by Wal-Mart. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman complained to the local newspaper that the company smelled "an anti-Wal-Mart bias" in the county ruling -- and that the company might appeal the decision to Clark County Superior Court. Wal-Mart noted that their plan had been approved by county planners, and by a county hearing officer. But the project, now in its second year of review, has never garnered the support of neighbors. Opponents did not mince their words when the county gave the superstore thumbs down. "We kicked their asses!" Bridget Schwarz, a leader in the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, was quoted as telling the Columbian. One Commissioner was critical of Wal-Mart's plan to pump stormwater through a neighboring set of condominiums. She also described Wal-Mart's traffic plan as "just absolutely unsafe." After the 3-0 vote to reject their plan, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the company was "extremely disappointed" and, claimed that the ruling was against the name on the building, not the plan itself. "It's just when Wal-Mart's name was tossed into the mix that it became a controversy," she said. But the attorney for the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association praised the action by the Commissioners. "They stood up for the community. It's obvious that they looked at this from a very technical point of view."

What you can do: Wal-Mart's threat of legal action will resonate in Clark County, because ten years ago, the county commissioners rejected another Wal-Mart proposal on East Mill Plain Boulevard -- but later caved into legal pressure from Wal-Mart, and voted to allow the project after all. In that 1997 case, Wal-Mart charged that the county had been biased against them. The same lawyer is handling the current case. County staff and a hearings examiner did support plans for a Wal-Mart in Salmon Creek, but the County commissioners have the final say. Wal-Mart will have 21 days now to appeal the formal ruling to the Superior Court. They will surely file an appeal, and hope that the filing will weaken the commissioners' resolve to fight the store. But the fact is, the courts are unlikely to overturn the county's decision unless their findings were arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the county cited concerns over stormwater and traffic. The "bias" issue is weak and amorphous, and in itself will not be enough for Wal-Mart to prevail. The retailer is likely hoping that the fear of litigation will overcome the facts in the case. Readers are asked to support the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association Readers by contacting the Clark County Commissioners. Encourage them to stick by their unanimous decision. The commissioners can be reached at: (360) 397-2232, or email them at: boardcom@clark.wa.gov. Tell them: "Congratulations for voted down another Wal-Mart. Vancouver is swimming in Wal-Marts already, and the Salmon Creek project has too many design flaws to approve. Don't let Wal-Mart try to scare you with legal threats. In court, they will have to show that your decision was arbitrary. Wal-Mart's charge of bias is not going to go anywhere. They are just poor losers."










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

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