Probably most people in Poulsbo, Washington never imagined their little town fighting a huge Wal-Mart store, but here’s a first-hand account from residents in “Little Norway” about their determination to keep out the Wal: “Little Norway, as Poulsbo is called, has strong Norwegian heritage that began over 100 years ago. The original settlers at the head of the bay developed a farm on land that has since become Poulsbo Village Shopping Center. Because of it’s majestic snow-peaked mountains and fjords, Poulsbo was soon settled by many more Norwegian and Scandinavian immigrants. Today Poulsbo has a population of about 7000 and still retains it’s unique character and charm with an attractive, and functional downtown area.During the 1990s, First Western Developments, a land developer, submitted plans to the City to develop the 215 acre Olhava property on the city’s north-west corner. Their anchor tenant was to be an adjunct campus of Olympic College. The Olhava site is also the location of a former Nike Missile station. After the army abandoned the site in the mid-sixties the parcel was classified as a superfund site. During the time of the Olhava development proposal, a citizen movement sprung up in Poulsbo called “Grow Smart” to try and moderate the leanings of the City Council for rapid growth – especially in the commercial area. Grow Smart fought a losing battle against the Master Plans for the Olhava development which included a quarter of the total development slated for commercial and retail uses. In April of 2003 it was finally learned that the secret tenant of the big-box retail space was to be Wal-Mart. Initial plans called for a 168,000 square feet superstore with plans for another 60,000 square feet in later developments – all on a 19-acre parcel. Within days of the announcement the group Citizens to Stop Wal-Mart In Poulsbo was formed and vigorous opposition was mounted. Meetings were held, marches and demonstrations carried out, and fundraising efforts began to initiate legal action. As of late June 2003, 5,000 signatures were gathered on a petition opposing Wal-Mart’s coming to Poulsbo. Additionally, the local union – UFCW Local 381 — has been instrumental in their support to take on a legal battle against Wal-Mart. Since the Master Plan for the Olhava development was already approved in the 1990s, there were very few legal avenues left to keep Wal-Mart out. Two avenues that were identified and acted upon were appeals to the SEPA EIS that was approved in 1998 and the site permit approved in June 2003. The City Council of Poulsbo is currently hearing these appeals and will make a determination in early to mid-July. If the City Council votes in favor of the developer and Wal-Mart we are committed to taking this legal battle to the courts. We remain committed to preserving the unique culture of our beautiful, little town and we remain committed to an ongoing boycott campaign if in fact Wal-Mart does come to Poulsbo.
For more background on Little Norway’s Big No-Way to Wal-Mart, contact [email protected]