The community of Central Point, Oregon made its central point against Wal-Mart very clear on April 15th, when the City Council, after five hours of public testimony, unanimously voted down Wal-Mart’s proposed 207,000 square foot supercenter, reversing the decision of its Planning Commission. But the lop-sided voted apparently was not the point to Wal-Mart, which threatened to take their case to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. The developer told the Mail Tribune that Wal-Mart expected to lose the vote. “This is the same City Council that tried to pass an emergency big-box ordinance,” last fall to stop Wal-Mart, the developer complained. But the city’s community development director said the council made the proper decision. “I’m very relieved and very encouraged that the council listened to the citizens of Central Point,” he said. The Council ruled that the Wal-Mart superstore did not fit with city planning goals. At the long public hearing, those speaking against the project outnumbered suporters by two to one. Local resident Becca Croft, representing the citizens group Central Point First, told the Council that the project was not in keeping with plans approved in 1999 for a community shopping center at the site and called for uses not allowed in C4 zoning, such as tire services and outdoor garden sales. Last March, the Wal-Mart plan got a thumbs down from a Citizens Advisory Committee, which said the plan was a bad match for the community. But the very next day, the Central Point Planning Commission gave the plan their approval, which caused the City Council to ask for the final say. The Mail Tribune did a profile story on Becca Croft, who led the citizen’s group Central Point First. “This has been my first venture into politics,” Croft told the paper. “I didn’t ask for this. Wal-Mart knocked on my door and left a big stink bomb and we’re trying to put out the fire.” According to Croft, Wal-Mart used under-handed tactics in its approach to the city. “I don’t have anything against capitalism, but I lost respect for them as a company.” She said Wal-Mart failed to accurately represent the impacts of their store on traffic. “My biggest pet peeve is dishonesty,” she told the paper. The proposed Wal-Mart would have sat 1,000 feet from her house.
Central Point becomes at least the fourth Oregon community in the past year to slam-dunk a Wal-Mart. For similar stories, search Newsflash for Oregon City, Hillsboro, and Hood River, Oregen.