Sprawl-Busters first wrote about Yakima, Washington four years ago, on February 21, 2003. At the time, citizens wrote: “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.” Four battle-scarred years later, there is still no second Wal-Mart in Yakima, but the Yakima Herald Republic reports this week that a “development agreement” is heading for a vote on May 1st. The public will be given a chance to comment, and then the Yakima City Council could vote on the agreement. The agreement will spell out the conditions Wal-Mart has 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. But the Yakima City Council modified those provisions in August. Wal-Mart has bristled over five of the requirements, which involve lighting, street and sewer improvements. The city and Wal-Mart are trying to reach a settlement before a June 6 appeals hearing in Yakima County Superior Court. There is also a hearing on april 12th to review the company’s design changes to the supserstore. Some of the conditions Wal-Mart is being asked to comply with a minor, cosmetic changes, such as building a “smoking shelter,” dropping a gas station from the project, and eliminating the drive through for their pharmacy.
There really is very little here for Wal-Mart to fuss about. The main thing for the retailer is to get their store up and generating sales. These “agreements” are usually inconsequential, even if they cost the company more money to construct their store. City Councilor Dave Edler says that “Yakima 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 our 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: pick up the phone and call the City Council at 509-575-6050. Tell them “one Wal-Mart is one more than enough for Yakima. Don’t cave in to Wal-Mart’s legal pressure. Forget the settlement, and keep your court date with Wal-Mart on June 6th.”