With ten years in between loses, Wal-Mart is now a two-time loser in the city of Beaverton, Oregon. Sprawl-Busters reported in October of 2005, that Beaverton citizens were battling another Wal-Mart proposal. Wal-Mart was rejected once in Beaverton in 1995-96. The City of Beaverton denied Wal-Mart’s application 10 years ago based on concerns about the downtown impact, traffic, and Wal-Mart’s “transit-unfriendly” business model. But the retailer returned, and this week the Beaverton city councilors voted unanimously to reject again a 152,300 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter on the Cedar Mill Boulevard. The group Save Cedar Mill told Oregon Public Broadcasting, “we were sort of holding our breath, but sure enough, one councilor after another leaned into the microphone and said ‘we also support the denial of this application’. And it became very apparent very quickly that the council had thought this through individually very carefully. They arrived at the same conclusions we did very early on – that this development just won’t work for this community.” On the group’s website, Save Cedar Mill Chair Steve Kaufman wrote, “As each (council member) elaborated on their positions, our hearts lifted. All of the arguments that we so carefully put forth over the past eighteen months — choking traffic, a pedestrian-unfriendly design, conflict with the transit-oriented zoning, the excessive use of the remaining traffic capacity — were cited in their comments. With every word, our hard work and efforts were validated, convincing us that we were on message with the letters, emails, and public testimony that we offered. In the end, the Council cited the City’s number one goal: preserve and enhance our sense of community. As we had hoped all along, the Council did not see this project as compatible with that goal. Even the Mayor, who did not vote on the motion, weighed in with his opposition. With the community’s best interests at heart, the Council voted unanimously to deny the application. Shortly thereafter, the meeting was adjourned and the hugs began.” City zoning rules require that developments must be pedestrian-friendly, and compliment mass transit goals. The land Wal-Mart wanted is in a “transit oriented retail” zoned. A spokesman for the Wal-Mart development team said they were “frankly disappointed because we thought based on the record before the city council that clearly instead of being five-zero against the project, it should have been five-zero for the project. Because clearly, the Wal-Mart application complied with all the legal requirements, and mitigated all of its impacts.” As usual when Wal-Mart is defeated, they immediately threatened litigation. ” I think it’s a legal question,” their spokesman said, “and I think based on what we heard last night, that there are serious legal flaws in how the city council made its decision.” Wal-Mart will now have to take their case to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, and once the written decision is produced, they will have three weeks to go to the LUBA.
The lawyer for Save Cedar Mill, Jeff Kleinman, told the Oregonian newspaper, “”What one does learn is if citizens are focused, diligent and work very hard — and pay close attention to the actual approval criteria — they (can) be successful even against a megalith.” All local zoning cases are just that — about zoning. Sometimes citizens groups will wander off the page and try to argue about Wal-Mart’s employment practices, or its sourcing of products from China. These are not issues that local Planning Boards or City Councils can use when developing “findings of fact.” Sometimes impact on local public revenues, or on property values can be used as arguments — but only if such issues are reflected in the city or town zoning code. For background on the Beaverton history, search Newsflash by the city’s name. For local contacts in Beaverton, email [email protected], or go to www.savecedarmill.org.