On August 30, 2005, Sprawl-Busters predicted that Wal-Mart would lose its appeal of a Gresham, Oregon City Planner’s decision to deny a Wal-Mart supercenter application. We were right. Wal-Mart lost their appeal. The group Gresham First, which has been fighting Wal-Mart every step of the way, issued this press release today: “Gresham First organized to advocate responsible development and growth, and is pleased with the Hearings Officer’s decision to reject the proposal for a Wal-Mart at 182nd & Powell Blvd. in Gresham. Community concerns included the impact of a Supercenter on existing traffic problems, pedestrian safety, nearby schools, environmental pollution of nearby trails and streams, and effects on local business. The City of Gresham planning process carefully weighed all aspects of the proposal, including community concerns and infrastructure demands, and found that the site was truly incompatible for a development of this size. Our mission was to raise public awareness of the proposed development, analyze the impact on the community, and organize appropriate action by concerned citizens. We are proud of our participation which helped set a new record in Gresham for number of comments received during the public review period. However, this was not just a popularity contest. Various concerns exist regarding the suitability of the proposed site, and we feel validated by the Hearings officer decision to uphold the initial ruling and deny the application due to traffic and safety issues. Please visit our website to view the full report at www.greshamfirst.org. Many thanks are due to members of the community who have contributed time, energy, and hard-earned money to our campaign. As we celebrate a victory during this phase of the permit application process, we must also look ahead to the next step. Further appeal would be brought before the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). This particular retailer has a history of long, drawn-out appeals and Gresham First has been preparing for the possibility since our early planning stages. Our research on LUBA appeals has shown a history of supporting City-level decisions, and we feel confident that the City of Gresham will represent the best interests of residents during any further proceedings. Our efforts during the permit application process were focused on land use codes that apply to the proposed site, but the proposal has also raised concerns regarding the health and well being of our region’s economy, workers and community livability. The economic impacts of this particular retailer on our community include damage to local business, illegal treatment of employees, poor pay scale, inadequate health care benefits and sexual discrimination. Unfortunately, these factors are not currently protected by our City Planning and Development code. Gresham First recommends the development of zoning regulations that would require retail projects over a certain size to undergo an independent economic impact review, including factors such as the nearby downtown business district, employment, wages, roads and other public services, historic resources, environmental impacts and traffic. This will help our region to make informed decisions about our future with objective information on the potential costs of large scale retail developments, without using an outright ban. Applicants who demonstrate they will provide an economic benefit to our community should be allowed to build. By researching the facts and understanding the long term impacts, together we can shape our community to stimulate growth and prosperity. ”
So Wal-Mart lost the City Planner’s verdict, now has lost the Hearing Officer’s decision, and if the company wants to stay in play, it will appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals. Once again, Sprawl-Busters predicts confidently that Wal-Mart will become a three-time loser in Gresham. The company, which is always trying to contain its costs, needs to explain to its Board of Directors why it continues to pursue this case, rather than to move on to another community. There is no justification for spending shareholder money pursing these locations through the courts. Wal-Mart will lose, spend more on lawyers, and prove only that the company no longer heeds the advice of its Founder to move on when a community, “for whatever reason, doesn’t want us in there.” Congratulations to Gresham First for two victories over Wal-Mart.