Wal-Mart must be weary of the lukewarm reception they have received in the shadow of beautiful Mount Rainier. On December 8, 2004, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart rushed a zoning proposal to the city offices in Tumwater, Washington just three hours before the Council voted to put into place a moratorium on large scale retail developments. Tumwater Council members approved the ordinance, which prohibits permits for retail stores larger than 125,000 square feet. The Olympian newspaper described city officials as “stunned” by the Wal-Mart proposal. The retailer wanted to build a 207,000 s.f supercenter on 21 acres between a Costco and Home Depot on Littlerock Road. One Council member said Wal-Mart “must have scrambled pretty darn hard to get their application in,” given the short notice time. But now, more than two and a half year later, Wal-Mart is still waiting to build a store in Tumwater. The city council did issue a site plan approval last week for a superstore that is now slightly reduced at 187,054 s.f. The scaled-down site plan was approved with conditions and changes.The city said it would approve two versions of the smaller store, with some roadway conditions changed. “This is an allowed use for that zoning district,” the city’s development services director told the newspaper. “We don’t regulate the size of the building, but we do regulate tree preservation and minimums and maximums for parking spaces.” The Olympian reports that The Tumwater Liveable Community (TLC), a local citizen’s group, and Local 367 of the United Food & Commercial Workers have filed appeals of Wal-Mart’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project on Littlerock Road. According to the appeal, Wal-Mart’s FEIS “contains inadequate, incomplete, and, at times, inaccurate information on the probable significant adverse impacts of the Wal-Mart proposal and alternatives.” The Seattle law firm of Bricklin Newman Dold is representing the group. The appeal charges that the FEIS “fails to comply with the policies and requirements of the State Environmental Policy Act… (and) fails to protect the right of the citizens of Tumwater to a safe and healthful environment.” The groups are asking that Wal-Mart be required to submit a revised environmental report that eliminates negative impacts on the environment. What began in a great rush by Wal-Mart, has now turned into a costly waiting game for the retailer.
This project has already cost Wal-Mart more than two and a half years of delay, and is typical of what is happening across the country. Instead of ribbon cuttings, Wal-Mart first has to pass through appeals and courts and mounds of legal bills. The TLC appeal, according to the Olympian, must be based on the adequacy of the FEIS and not the merits of the project. The TLC has said “the document is misleading in many areas, that the manner in which data was collected is prejudicial and fails to accurately account for the real environmental impacts of a proposed Wal-Mart store.” An appeal means that the project by must now be reviewed by a Tumwater hearing examiner. The hearing examiner’s decision can then be appealed to the Tumwater City Council and from there to the Thurston County Superior Court. For more background on the work of TLC, their website is http://www.livabletumwater.org/. The group is now a non-profit entity, and donations are tax-deductible. Checks can be made out to: Tumwater Livable Community, and mailed to: TLC, 855 Trosper Rd. SW. #108-20, Tumwater, WA. 98512. Readers are encouraged to email the members of the Tumwater City Council at: [email protected] Tell the Council: “Tumwater doesn’t need a supercenter nearly three times the size of a football field. Sell your beauty, and your charm, and Mount Rainier — but don’t hook your future to Wal-Mart’s star.”