Last January, rumors started flying in LaGrande, Oregon that Wal-Mart wanted to morph its discount store into a supercenter. Brett Kelver of Oregon Rural Action filed this report: “Basically, there are two primary site options for this larger store (proposed to be over 150,000 square feet): 1) at the current site of the discount store; or 2) across Island Avenue from the current store, on part of a 52-acre parcel owned by local developer (and construction contractor) Mike Becker. Site 1 would most likely play out with Wal-Mart buying out the Shop-n-Kart grocery next door and expanding their current discount store at the same site, all of which property is inside the city limits of Island City. Site 2, which sounds like Wal-Mart’s preferred option because they get to build the store just the way they want it on an undeveloped site, has many more complications. The Becker property in question is not within the city limits or even Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs) of either Island City or La Grande, but falls under the jurisdiction of Union County and is currently zoned for rural residential (2-acre lots) development. In order for a SuperCenter to be built on that site, Wal-Mart will have to first apply to expand the UGBs of both cities and then apply to have the property annexed into both cities. While there may have earlier been an agreement between La Grande and Island City that this particular property must be acted upon jointly by the two cities and cannot be split for the purpose of pushing an application through one city or the other, that agreement does not sound binding and would not prevent one city or the other from acting alone to expand its UGB and let Wal-Mart build the SuperCenter on its piece of the property alone. Under Oregon’s land use planning laws, expanding a city’s UGB is not an easy process because such an expansion is not to be done lightly or without solid justification. Neither Island City nor LaGrande city could currently justify adding any more land to its UGB: they both have enough developable land, as determined by the formulas commonly used. Since 1997, all Oregon counties are required to coordinate the population projections for their incorporated cities as part of the county comprehensive land use plan…These population projections are important in that they will set the stage for future UGB expansions and may facilitate sprawling development.
For more background on LaGrande’s fight to limit sprawl, contact Brett Kelver at [email protected]