In a press release dated August 17th, the City of Gresham, Oregon’s Community and Economic Development Department announced that the city has rejected a proposal for a Wal-Mart supercenter. This decision can be appealed by Wal-Mart to the city’s Hearing Officer, and then to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals, but this week’s rejection is a major setback to the retailer’s plans — another in a string of losses following Wal-Mart across Oregon. “It’s about traffic,” a city official said. “While a number of concerns about the development were raised, the issues of traffic could not be resolved.” The city ruled that the “safety risks, the volumes of anticipated traffic made the risk too high.” Wal-Mart proposed an option to modify the roadways, but the retailer’s plans would only “increase crash potential,” the city said. In a separate press release, the citizen’s group, Gresham First, made the following observations about Wal-Mart’s defeat: “The Wal-Mart proposal located at 182nd and Powell has been denied by the City of Gresham. Gresham First was organized to advocate responsible development, and our current mission has been to raise public awareness of the proposed application and encourage citizen participation in the public process. We are proud of our accomplishments in educating neighbors, raising funds for expert assistance, and contributing to a record-breaking number of comments
received during the public review process. Wal-Mart now has 12 calendar days to file an appeal, which would be heard by the Hearings Officer. The local appeal process must be completed no later than October 29, 2005. Further appeal would be brought before the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). Fundraising efforts have been crucial in providing an independent traffic consultant, whose thorough review of existing traffic conditions and the proposed development impacts were submitted to the City Planner during the public comment period. Traffic concerns were the basis for denial, as recommended by Greenlight Engineering and the consultant hired by the City, DKS. Our land use attorney, Chris Cook, will handle both the City and State appeal hearings if necessary. Greenlight Engineering will also provide testimony of traffic impact findings and recommendations during any hearing.”
This Gresham case is a good example of how a plan can be jammed up based on adverse traffic impacts, and the importance of having an independent traffic consultant countering the claims of the developer. The applicant always finds no traffic problems, and usually claims that their new plan will improve traffic flow. But in this case, both the city and residents presented independent traffic studies that made more of an impact on city officials, and the project was denied. Local boards should never accept a big box retailer’s traffic plan without at least an independent peer review. For earlier stories on Gresham, search Newsflash by the name of the city.