Sprawl-Busters Newsflash Blog - Anti-Sprawl news since 1998.
Subscribe to Sprawl-Busters Blog Follow Sprawl Busters on Twitter
Occupy Walmart & Order Al's Books Movies Newsflash! The Case Against Sprawl Home Towns Not Home Depot Victories Your Battles About Us Contact Us  

recent news

List articles
by the month:

2017
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2016
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2015
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2014
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2013
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2012
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2011
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2010
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2009
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2008
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2007
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2006
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2005
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2004
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2003
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2002
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2001
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

2000
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

1999
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC

1998
JAN FEB MAR
APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP
OCT NOV DEC


Search database by text:

2009-04-28
Medford, OR. Wal-Mart Cancels Store Expansion Plans

While one time-worn battle over Wal-Mart continues in Medford, Oregon, another one just ended. Wal-Mart has a discount store on Crater Lake Highway in Medford on the northern side of the city. But the company has been trying to build a larger supercenter at the former Miles Field property on South Pacific Road for more than six years. On May 22, 2004, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Medford City Council had reversed a decision by an advisory commission, and rejected a proposal to build a 206,500 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter on the south side Miles Field site. The Medford Council voted 5-1 to reverse the Site Plan and Architectural Commission's decision to approve the Wal-Mart. "It is not compatible with the surrounding area," said Councilwoman Claudette Moore. "I believe the burden of proof for compatibility has not been met," added Councilman Jim Kuntz. But Wal-Mart did not give up in Medford. 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. Citizens reported in January of 2007 that appeals of the 2006 approval had been taken to the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) twice throughout the course of application, and that the LUBA had ruled for the citizens and against the City of Medford, citing procedural errors regarding a 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 (MCRD), 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 appeal the 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 attorney's 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, the Site Plan and Architectural Commission ruled that Wal-Mart was not required to do a comprehensive traffic study. Wal-Mart opponents warned residents that: "Wal-Mart is back! LUBA ruled in our favor and told the City to do it right this time!... 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... 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!" The project needs a zone change from the Planning Commission, from industrial to commercial for a small part of the parcel. Wal-Mart cut the store by roughly 15%, from 206,500 s.f. to 176,500 s.f. The appearance of the store has been altered from a blue and grey "battleship" style, to something the Mail Tribune described as "a woodsy mountain lodge." The city's planner seemed very pleased with the new mountain lodge affect. "It's certainly more attractive than the blue box," she said. But the MCRD said the traffic generated by a 176,500 s.f. store will still have a significant impact on local roads. The city told the Tribune that it expects the residents will appeal if the city grants Wal-Mart a rezoning and permit to build. On August 23, 2008, the citizens made their move. Their legal appeal to the City Council was filed by Wendy Siporen, a member of Medford Citizens for Responsible Development. The appeal charges that the city's Site Plan and Architectural Commission and city staff misinterpreted city code by allowing the plan to move forward without a comprehensive traffic impact analysis. A Wal-Mart spokesman said the appeal "did not come as a surprise." Eight months after the LUBA appeal was filed, the Mail Tribune reports this week that Wal-Mart is determined to defend itself against the citizen's appeal, but the long battle over this store has created at least one casualty: the retailer is dropping plans to build a second store on the north side of the city. The controversial Miles Field project will have its appeal board hearing next week, and Wal-Mart says if it wins the case, work could start on the superstore by the summer of 2010. A northside superstore has already been approved by the compliant Medford City Council, which gave Wal-Mart the green light five months ago. But now, despite approval by the city, Wal-Mart has announced that it's not going to build that northside project. "At this point, we're just focused on the Miles Field project," a Wal-Mart spokeswoman told the Mail Tribune. "The economy has changed since we initially started on the development agreement." City officials are predicting that the LUBA will rule in their favor, but Wal-Mart opponents don't agree. "We wouldn't go to LUBA if we didn't have a strong case," said Siporen, "The Medford code is very clear, requiring a traffic study. It (Wal-Mart) will affect intersections for about a mile around, some worse than others. When you add that many vehicle trips per day, they are all going to be impacted."


What you can do: Medford officials gave Wal-Mart the permits needed last November to expand their existing discount store on Crater Lake Highway from 127,000 s.f. to more than 150,000 s.f. according to the Mail Tribune. Wal-Mart explained its withdrawal from the northside store by saying the giant retailer has been cutting back on its new store growth projections. This coming year, Wal-Mart is expected to seek between 140 and 170 supercenter projects, compared to its previous target of 300 new superstores. The company has begun doing 'in-box conversions' where it simply remodels its existing discount stores into supercenters, without adding one new square foot of space. Last August, Attorney Kenneth Helm of Beaverton, Oregon, who represents the citizens, said that a traffic study should be conducted for any new development that impacts arterial and collector roads. The city said a traffic study was only needed if a zone change was involved. But Wal-Mart did ask for a zone change -- on a small part of the property -- but a zone change nonetheless. The city says a traffic study was needed only if the zone change involved more than 250 vehicle trips a day -- which this project does. "The code says you should do a traffic impact analysis at the time of development, not 10 to 15 years ago during the last zone change," Helm said. The Oregon LUBA in 2005 required the city to show that a comprehensive traffic study was not required by code -- but the city never responded, the citizens charge. "The opponents are union groups and people who don't live in the city of Medford," a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Tribune last summer. "Approval was unanimous by the Planning Commission and the Site Plan and Architectural Commission. We are proud of our plan. We have hundreds of supporters in the city limits who back us on this." The Medford Citizens for Responsible Development are concerned about the impact of this project 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. A comprehensive traffic 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 the additional traffic just won't fit at the old Miles Field property. Readers are urged to email Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler at Mayor@ci.medford.or.us with the following message: "Dear Mayor Wheeler and City Council, I am hoping that the LUBA will side with residents in your city who have raised serious traffic concerns with the Miles Field project. This store is about the size of three football fields -- not counting the parking lot. The only good news is that the existing Crater Lake Highway store won't be expanded. Wal-Mart has begun converting its discount stores into supercenters by doing what they call 'in-box conversions,' which means changing the store into a supercenter, without adding any new square footage. The Miles Field project will not add revenue or jobs to Medford, just another store selling groceries. Most of Wal-Mart's sales will come from existing merchants. You have an Urban Renewal Agency, and are trying to hold events like a walking tour of your downtown. Building a stand-alone supercenter outside the downtown is working at cross purposes. For 6 long years this project has been presented as a win/lose situation. If Wal-Mart wins, many of the neighbors lose. This is bad land use planning -- all caused by the incompatible scale of this project. Please take a strong stand against suburban sprawl in your city, and give residents growth they can get excited about. This project needs a full traffic study. It will generate far more than 250 vehicle trips per day. Do the study now -- don't wait for the LUBA to tell you to do it ."










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

info@sprawl-busters.com
Strategic Planning ~ Field Operations
Voter Campaigns 
21 Grinnell St, Greenfield ~ MA 01301
(413) 772-6289