In late February, a hearing examiner in Pullman, Washington rejected efforts by local residents to block a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter. The City Supervisor said at the time that the ruling was a “mixed decision,” because the original Wal-Mart proposal had to be modified. But the hearing officer’s changes were minor. He required Wal-Mart to put in a traffic signal before the store opens; he required Wal-Mart to pay more than 20% of the cost of that signal — a minor expense for the company. The Supervisor quickly declared the matter final, and told The Daily Evergreen newspaper, “Hopefully the community can move beyond the controversy.” But local residents were not satisfied with the mitigations in the Examiner’s decision, and they had the right to file an appeal to Superior Court by March 20th — an appeal Wal-Mart certainly would have filed it they had been at all unhappy with the plan. The citizens’ group, Pullman Alliance For Responsible Development (PARD) told the newspaper, “the project as outlined is better than the original, but still has flaws that need to be addressed.” This week, PARD made up its mind. Here is the press release PARD sent to Sprawl-Busters: “Members of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) have consulted with large numbers of their rank and file in the Pullman area and decided, after much deliberation and discussion, to go forward with an appeal of the Hearing Examiner’s ruling to the Whitman County Superior Court. While the Hearing Examiner did order a number of mitigations to the original decision by the Pullman Office of Public Works, PARD feels these mitigations did not go far enough in terms of what it will take to temper the impact the massive Wal-Mart Supercenter will have on traffic along Bishop Blvd., Grand Ave., Spring St. and Crestview, and other streets in the area, streets that already are showing the stress of overuse. Moreover, PARD argues that the information regarding the traffic impact was inadequate. The State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) clearly states that any determination of non-significance must be based on adequate information. Second, both the SEPA and the Site Plan require that it be clearly determined that the Wal-Mart Supercenter will not have a negative fiscal impact on the city causing blight. PARD’s appeal argues that the determination made was based on insufficient data as well. SEPA and the Site Plan mandate that an adequate fiscal impact analysis be conducted to determine this. The results of the Hearing Examiner’s decision were based either on no information or on the highly skewed fiscal analysis bought and paid for by Wal-Mart itself. These do not satisfy the review criteria and PARD is once again calling for an independent fiscal impact study, a study that has never been done in the wake of the Wal-Mart onslaught. The appeal will be filed in the Whitman County Superior Court in Colfax, Washington, under the Washington State Land Use Petition Act (LUPA). Pullman deserves a more open process that allows for the public to have a voice in such major decisions early in the process. The whole Wal-Mart controversy in Pullman has illustrated how closed the political decision making process is in Pullman and how so much power is concentrated in the hands of so few people.
For earlier stories on Pullman’s battle, search Newsflash by the name of the city. To contact PARD, call Christopher Lupke (509) 335-2755; 334-4547; [email protected]
Or go to the group’s website: www.pullman-ard.org. If PARD did not appeal, they had a 100% chance of losing. By appealing, the group lives to fight its issues another day. The City Supervisor was clearly trying to put this decision behind him — but he knew that Wal-Mart would have appealed had the case gone against them. So PARD is only playing by the same rules developers play by — rules that benefit developers, because it takes money to pursue your legal rights.