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2013-01-06
Hillsboro, OR. WalMart Returns To Same Land Where It Lost 9 Years Ago

If at first you don't succeed, submit your Wal-Mart plan again.

Wal-Mart has shaken off defeat in Hillsboro, Oregon, and returned to the city with a much smaller version than the proposal that went down in flames 9 years ago.
On April 8, 2004, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals had backed an earlier ruling by the city of Hillsboro, Oregon denying an appeal by Wal-Mart to build a superstore in this community.

That decision nine years ago shut down Wal-Mart's year and a half effort to get into Hillsboro. "This is not a victory for us over Wal-Mart. It's a victory (for) good planning," Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes was quoted as saying in the Oregonian. "This will be an important tool for us to move forward and make decisions on planning the city." A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the company was disappointed with the ruling, but Wal-Mart rarely takes 'No' as a final answer.

In 2004, the LUBA said that Wal-Mart had failed to produce a traffic report that realistically demonstrated the impact of a 210,155 s.f. supercenter on the residential neighborhood near the site. The board said Wal-Mart's traffic study area was too small, and should have covered an area within one mile of the project. The Board also faulted Wal-Mart for not fully exploring ways of protecting two groves of sequoia trees at the site. The Board even hassled Wal-Mart over the lack of windows on one side face of the building, and the location of loading dock too close to pedestrians, according to the newspaper.

The LUBA decision followed the unanimous rejection of the plan eight months earlier by the Hillsboro City Council. The city charged that this scale of a store simply could not be made compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, and that the proposal was incompatible with the city's vision for that part of the city. The store itself would have been the size of five football fields. Wal-Mart tried to argue that the city has misinterpreted its own zoning code, but the Board did not agree. The city's lawyer described Wal-Mart as "super inflexible." "They tweaked the paint and a few other things, but otherwise everything else was carved in stone along with their corporate model," said Daniel Kearns.

The Mayor of Hillsboro said any other similar project would have been rejected. "I don't have strong feelings about Wal-Mart one way or the other," the Mayor said. "If the same design would have been proposed by another store, it would have still been denied."

Now, almost nine years later, Wal-Mart has returned to Hillsboro with plans for a smaller store. According to the Oregonian newspaper, Wal-Mart has submitted plans to the city for a new project they are euphemistically calling "Sequoia Village," trying to get some positive association from the majestic sequoia name.

On January 7th, Wal-Mart will present its plans for the same piece of land, this time telling the public that its new plan is "significantly different" than the retailer's first plan. Wal-Mart is now calling its proposal a "mixed-use development," and the controversial developer, PACLAND, is approaching neighbors to preview its plans before a formal project is submitted to city planners. In a letter mailed to neighbors, PACLAND said its "plans may change slightly before the application is submitted to the city."

The 2013 Wal-Mart project is down-sized to a 50,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, plus three other retail buildings and a multifamily residential development. The city's planner told The Oregonian, "There's a history of transportation issues related to this site that we have forwarded to them. I'm glad that they are going out to the public." "We look forward to hearing from residents and gathering feedback as we work toward providing a new mixed-use center for the Hillsboro community," a Wal-Mart spokesperson told the newspaper.

What you can do: Readers are urged to contact Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey at http://www.ci.hillsboro.or.us/CityCouncil/EmailTab.aspx with the following message:

"Dear Mayor Willey,

Sequoia Village? Is it possible that PACLAND and Wal-Mart can try to literally hide behind the trees? This "village" is still inappropriately scaled. When you compare the current Wal-Mart plan to the one the city rejected nine years ago, it appears to be much smaller. But think about how many retailers Hillsboro has today that are 50,000 s.f. or larger. Do you really want to raise the bar on retail store size?

Your city motto, "We're growing great things in Hillsboro," does not say "great big things," and your planners need to carefully assess the impact not only on traffic and the neighborhood, but on the impact of existing merchants in the city who will go under if Wal-Mart opens. This project is not about jobs and economic development -- it's only about market share.

I hope you, as Mayor, will tell PACLAND that you don't want a Wal-Mart the size of a football field packed onto this land. Hold out for a plan that reflects smart growth for Hillsboro, not more sprawl."










 
 
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