Residents in Portland, Oregon are working to fend off an unwanted Wal-Mart superstore. Here’s their latest report from the frontlines, “There was a neighborhood meeting this week, where, for the first time in public, the developer laid out his plan for a new Wal-Mart supercenter in the middle of several Portland and Milwaukie neighborhoods. There were over 200 people at the meeting, and it had generated enough buzz to attract the Portland City Manager to the meeting. Unfortunately, there have been no discussions at all with any local governments or neighborhoods to this point, and the plan has not been well publicized, so the majority of local residents know nothing about it. The developer has a signed lease with Wal-Mart to build a superstore of a kind ‘never before built’. We are talking a “smaller, more neighborhood friendly” 150,000 square foot supercenter with 600 enclosed parking spots. The developer has insisted no local business would be harmed due to the size, as they would limit ‘non-food items’ due to the size constraints. He went on to admit that there was no language that would restrict Wal-Mart sales or square footage of any particular merchandise. Preliminary traffic reports are far off base from actual neighborhood traffic and only take into account one of several streets and neighborhoods that would be directly affected by the proposed store. No studies have been done on potential emergency response issues. This lease was signed before any study was complete, and the developer says his only outs are to sell to a city agency. He can supposedly amend the lease based on neighborhood comments, but based on his statements at the meeting, he has no interest in the neighborhood Additionally, the developer has already threatened to file a Measure 37 claim against the city if he is not approved. Measure 37, in short, restricts the state’s ability to dictate land usage, through zoning, of any property owned prior to the zoning restriction. In essence, if denied, he claims he can sue the city for monetary loss, which is now much greater with a signed Wal-Mart lease. In essence, he is blackmailing the city with Wal-Mart’s help. If it does not work, he owns a 99 year lease on a Wal-Mart property, and he can walk away rich either way. The developer knows that there has been a plan for years to extend Portland’s light rail system to Milwaukie, and the site chosen was a prime candidate for the park-and-ride and light rail station. Instead of reducing traffic and sprawl, this man would have us build a store larger than anything locally, in a location that cannot be easily accessed by current roads, and in the middle of several vibrant neighborhoods. The most devilish part -his plan has been in effect since December, and only after the plan was leaked three days ago did he approach any neighborhood officials about the plan. The developer says he will submit plans to the city by mid-July, giving us only 3 weeks to fight this proposed Wal-Mart. He would have construction underway by fall of this year. Wal-Mart already operates two stores within a 10 minute radius of the site. The development would by far outsize any retail within several miles, and would likely single-handedly destroy recent efforts to revitalize historic downtown Milwaukie. This is the wrong store at the wrong location. I might add that an impromptu show of hands resulted in not a single person willing to show support for the plan.
For earlier stories on this Portland battle, or on Measure 37, search by those terms on the Newsflash database. For local contacts in Portland, contact [email protected]