On May 22, 2004, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart had lost a crucial vote in the city of Medford, Oregon. The Medford City Council overturned an advisory commission’s recommendation, and rejected a proposal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The Medford Council voted 5-1 to reverse the Site Plan and Architectural Commission’s April 2 decision to approve the Wal-Mart. We reported at the time that Wal-Mart had the right to appeal the city’s decision to the Oregon Land Use Board Of Appreals. More than two and a half years after the city’s rejection of Wal-Mart, local residents in Medford sent Sprawl-Buster’s the following update: “The decision on a proposed Wal-Mart will be back in the hands of the Medford City Council. Fresh faces on the Council are likely to consider neighborhood concerns and impose strict requirements for new development. Opponents are hopeful that the project can be defeated once and for all, and are
rallying public support. Since Wal-Mart first submitted an application in 2003, residents and business owners have raised concerns including the impact on existing traffic problems, compatibility with adjacent buildings and effects on local business. Medford
Citizens for Responsible Development is a grassroots organization working to ensure public involvement in local development decisions, and has organized formidable opposition to the Wal-Mart development. 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. In November 2006, voters chose new faces for the Medford City Council, rejecting a developer-friendly incumbent and showing strong support for neighborhood and livability issues. The Wal-Mart application is reviewed through two local bodies, the Site Plan and Architectural Review Committee (SPAC), and the Medford City Council. Appeals have been raised to the State Land Use Board of Appeals twice throughout the course of application, and LUBA has recently ruled against the City of Medford, citing procedural errors in avoiding the full traffic study. A final decision from LUBA is expected in March 2007, which would send the decision back to the Medford Council, asking them to either correct their 2006 decision, or adequately explain why city code is being waived for this project. The opposition group is working to organize pressure on the new City Council and Site Plan Committee members, as the case could be back in the City’s lap by early spring. Concerned residents and business owners are encouraged to advocate 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. 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.”
This is another one of those long-drawn out reviews that must make Wal-Mart shareholders wonder what the company is doing. The Medford application has now been pending for more than 3 years. After great time and expense, Wal-Mart could be back to square on if the LUBA rejects their plan and sends back to local officials for more study. The result is that Wal-Mart has lost more than $300 million is sales that would have taken place at a superstore in Medford — if one had been open. Instead, Wal-Mart has a pile of legal bills, and nothing in the ground to show for it. The giant retailers makes many such mistakes every year, and instead of cutting its loses and going where it is wanted, continiues to throw good money after bad. For more information on the group’s efforts and how to get involved, visit their website at www.medfordcitizens.org.