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2008-04-26
Medford, OR. Wal-Mart Still Struggling After Four Years Of Opposition

Wal-Mart already has a discount store in Medford, Oregon on Crater Lake Highway. The company's plans to build a much larger superstore in Medford -- and shut down their discount store -- fell into a huge crater of citizen opposition since 2003. Today, more than four years after applying for the supercenter, Wal-Mart still hasn't crawled out of the hole they dug for themselves. On May 22, 2004, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Medford, Oregon City Council had voted 5-1 to overturn an advisory commission's recommendation, and rejected the proposal to build a 207,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter on the south end of the city. The Medford Council voted to reverse its Site Plan and Architectural Commission's April 2, 2004 decision to approve the Wal-Mart. "It is not compatible with the surrounding area," said Councilwoman Claudette Moore at the time. But in 2006, the City Council voted to approve the project. In November of 2006, voters in Medford removed from the City Council a developer-friendly incumbent and showed strong support for neighborhood and livability issues. Citizens reported in January of 2007 that appeals had been raised to the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) twice throughout the course of application, and the LUBA ruled against the City of Medford, citing procedural errors in avoiding the full traffic study. The "procedural error" took place in November of 2005, when the City council denied the opposition group, the Medford Citizens for Responsible Development, the chance to testify on the comprehensive traffic study. The LUBA ruled in September of 2007 that the city had erred, and the City Council said it would not to appeal LUBA's decision. "I think the land use process is a complicated process, a bunch of hoops and hurdles you have to jump through. Its set up to give all the protections in the world to protect both the property owners and the neighboring property owners and do things right," Medford city councilman, Jason Anderson, said at the time. "The reason the city didn't allow [residents] to speak was based on city attorneys advice they weren't the ones who appealed a previous hearing -- they lacked standing." Wal-Mart, however, appealed the LUBA's decision. The MCRD said that Wal-Mart should be required to conduct a comprehensive traffic study for the site. The group says this study will show that additional traffic mitigation is needed, and Wal-Mart will be financially responsible for those roadway improvements. Wal-Mart says they can't be forced to do a comprehensive study by the city, because one was already done 16 years ago when the land was rezoned. When the case came back to the city, its Site Plan and Architectural Commission ruled that Wal-Mart was not required to do a comprehensive traffic study. This week, Wal-Mart opponents sent out their latest alert, warning that: "Wal-Mart is back! LUBA ruled in our favor and told the City to do it right this time! The consideration of the LUBA remand is up for public hearing Thursday May 1st at Medford City Council Chambers. It's not over! Residents and business owners must urge the City Council to ask Wal-Mart for an adequate traffic study to analyze the impacts of almost 9,000 additional car trips per day in the already congested South Medford I-5 Interchange area. Last year the City Council rejected plans for a 207,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Super Center at Miles Field along Highway 99 at Center Drive. Now after months of secret meetings with city planning staff, Wal-Mart is trying to sneak its huge building into town without an adequate traffic study. After four years, we can't stop now!"

What you can do: The Medford Citizens for Responsible Development formed to organize opposition to the development, and is a grassroots organization of community residents and business owners working to ensure public involvement in the process. Their goals are to raise awareness of the proposal and organize community involvement in the decision. Concerns include the impact on existing traffic problems, compatibility with adjacent buildings and effects on local business. Since Wal-Mart first submitted an application in 2003, residents and business owners have raised these concerns. Traffic jams and over-development are hot issues in the valley, and local residents are increasingly concerned that City leaders have allowed development at all costs, regardless of impacts to taxpayers, traffic congestion, or local community desires. The opposition group is working to organize pressure on the City Council and Site Plan Committee members, to advocate for an adequate traffic study to analyze the impacts of almost 9,000 additional car trips per day in the already congested Interchange area. Pressure applied to the Medford City Council and Site Plan and Architectural Commission could result in the requirement of traffic studies for all major developments, instead of passing the infrastructure costs to taxpayers. A comprehensive study will identify critical problems with the existing infrastructure, and require the developer to either mitigate the impacts or not be allowed to build. Opponents expect that if a full study is done, traffic engineers will discover that an additional 9,000 cars per day just won't fit at the old Miles Field property, killing the project once and for all. "We need your support," MRDC says. "We have been given little notice of this hearing. Medford Citizens for Responsible Development respectfully requests emergency donations to pay for immediate legal expenses and to continue the fight. To require or not require a sound traffic study- that will be the ultimate question, and we must make our case. To make a donation to further this group's four year battle against Wal-Mart, go to http://www.medfordcitizens.org, or email them at medford_citizens@yahoo.com.










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

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