Sprawl-Busters first wrote about Yakima, Washington on February 21, 2003. At the time, citizens wrote about their opposition to a proposed Wal-Mart superstore: “Yakima is a city of about 85,000 people. We have one Wal Mart on the East side of town and now we are threatened with another one on the West side of town. The proposed Wal-Mart on the West side of town known as West Valley is supposed to be built right beside a large church, across from an elementary school that is a “walking school” (meaning that most of the children walk to school instead of being bussed) and right in the middle of a middle class, single family home neighborhood… We have been talking to the newspaper, city council, city development staff but all everyone can see is sales tax revenue. We are having a hard time convincing people that another Wal-Mart will kill this town.” It took Wal-Mart four years to get approval for their superstore in 2007. The City Council voted in support of an agreement that spelled out the conditions Wal-Mart had to meet to build their 204,000 s.f. superstore on 64th Avenue and Nob Hill. In 2006, the dispute over the store went to a hearing examiner, who ruled that Wal-Mart had to meet 52 conditions before it could build. On January 20, 2006, the city announced that the Yakima Hearing Examiner had released a decision approving plans to build a Wal-Mart in West Valley, with several conditions and restrictions. “Wal-mart will be required to mitigate potential environmental impacts the project may cause by using low-intensity lighting in the store’s parking lot, building landscaped barriers between the store and existing neighborhoods, paying for road improvements near the site, installing noise dampening equipment, constructing a system to retain stormwater on-site, and by taking several other steps to limit the effects the store might have on the surrounding area,” the city said. The Yakima City Council modified those provisions in August of 2006. Wal-Mart had bristled over five of the requirements, which involve lighting, street and sewer improvements. Some of the conditions Wal-Mart had to comply with were minor, cosmetic changes, such as building a “smoking shelter,” dropping a gas station from the project, and eliminating the drive through for their pharmacy. But Wal-Mart supercenter #2269 was eventually approved at 1600 East Chestnut Avenue. This week, the Yakima Herald reports that Wal-Mart is back wanting to build a second supercenter in the city. Wal-Mart has applied to the city to create seven new lots in addition to the lot proposed for the store itself on a 34-acre site. “Wal-Mart continues to submit documents and other requirements of their permit. All indications are it is still a go. We don’t know the timing of it,” one city official told The Herald. The Wal-Mart superstore entrance would be located off South 64th Avenue. According to the newspaper, construction would not begin until the spring and the store would open a year later. The Herald made no reference to any organized opposition to the superstore plan. According to one former Mayor of Yakima, the first Wal-Mart battle cost the city millions of dollars in legal fees.
Yakima Mayor Dave Edler describes his city as “the ‘Fruit Bowl of the Nation’ because of the high-quality apples, cherries, pears, and other produce that thrives in the fertile soil of the Yakima valley. Others know Yakima as the place where more than 75% of the hops grown in the U.S. come from. Still others know about our area because of the mint fields, dairy farms, and vineyards that stretch from one end of the Yakima Valley to the other.” If this second Wal-Mart is built in Yakima, the city should be renamed the “Sprawl-Bowl of the Nation,” and can boast of its imported Chinese products instead of its local apples. Readers are urged to email Mayor Elder at [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor Edler, One Wal-Mart superstore is one more than enough for Yakima. The long legal battle to get the first Wal-Mart supercenter into Yakima should not be repeated. Land use decisions do not have to turn into a win/lose battle with your own constituents. This project is too large, it will produce little net change in jobs or revenues, because most of its sales will come from existing merchants in the city. What you end up doing is squandering another 34 acres on a form of suburban sprawl that has no place in the ‘heart of Central Washington.’ Don’t turn Yakima into the heart of Wal-Mart superstores. Put a cap on the size of retail buildings, and make these developers locate in already degraded properties only, not open space.”