All it takes is the breath of a Wal-Mart development in Oregon to create a backdraft of community opposition. The retail giant has had tough climbing in communities like Hood River, Hillsboro, Oregon City, Gresham, Beaverton, Portland, and just about everywhere they try to dig in roots in Oregon. Many of these communities have forced Wal-Mart out, or are doing battle now, driving up the cost of getting a store permit. Now word comes that Wal-Mart’s gaze has turned to Cornelius, in part because of rejection in nearby Hillsboro, which is also in Washington County. The Oregonian newspaper reports that the corporation has posted plans to build a store on 13 acres of land in Cornelius. The store would be 204,278 s.f. The developer’s sign on the property directs callers to a phone line that answers, “Thank you for calling regarding the proposed Wal-Mart in your area.” “I’m personally torn,” Jeff Dalin, a City Council member, told the Oregonian. “I’m sure it’ll draw more people to Cornelius, but my concern is for the businesses we already have.” Hillsboro rejected a Wal-Mart supercenter on the grounds that the project would generate too much traffic and that the store’s design was incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Wal-Mart battled defeat in Hood River all the way to the state’s Supreme Court, and lost. In Portland, Sprawl-Busters has reported that the Mayor of neighboring Milwaukie has written to the Mayor of Portland urging the supercenter project be killed. In Cornelius, a superstore may be a tough sell. “I really feel that we have sufficient of that type of business,” the president of the Cornelius Chamber of Commerce told the Oregonian. “We need more of a small-town flavor.” A Wal-Mart dog and pony show in Cornelius is scheduled for August 24th.
A citizen’s group is likely to form in Cornelius, just as it did in Hillsboro. After forming a group, citizens need to retain a land use attorney, and begin their public visibility campaign to explain to local officials why so many Oregon communities are fighting tooth and nail to keep their small town quality of life.