Wal-Mart opponents press onSound familiar? Who do you think is footing the bill for the attorneys that filed the Pullman Supercenter SEPA and site plan appeals that will be heard on the 13th and 20th of this month? I haven't noticed PARD holding any bake sales recently.
Mill Creek residents admit that the odds are against them
By Bill Sheets
A group of Mill Creek-area residents, with help from a labor union, continues to fight a proposed Wal-Mart store in a newly annexed area of the city.
The group has been large at times, with as many as 40 people at meetings, and small, with three or four people out holding protest signs and waving at passing cars.
Small groups have been out in the past week at the busy intersection of 132nd Street SE. and 35th Avenue SE., about a quarter-mile west of the proposed store site.
"It was really cold, so we didn't stay long, but the cars were responding," said resident Selma Bonham, who was out Dec. 14.
The residents say they know the application for the store is in its later stages and that the odds are against them.
"We hope to at least delay it," resident Karen Lowe said.
The group has gathered nearly 3,000 signatures on a petition to require the area targeted for the store to be restricted to small businesses, that businesses in the area pay wages and benefits at a certain rate and allow union membership.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Seattle has been paying the bulk of the cost for an attorney to fight approval of the store, Lowe said. Residents have been chipping in, and raised $750 in a holiday sale recently, she said.
"We're trying to help out," Bonham said.
The application for the 149,000-square-foot store was made while its proposed location, about a quarter-mile east of the current Thomas Lake shopping center, was still in unincorporated Snohomish County. The application continues to be processed by the county even though the area was annexed into Mill Creek on Dec. 1.
The county determined that no environmental review will be required for the site, said planner Tom Barnett. An all-day hearing on whether the store should be approved, and whether to require environmental review, is scheduled for Jan. 25 and a second hearing for Feb. 7 or 8, Barnett said.
The store developer's application for a stop light at the intersection of 132nd Street SE. and 39th Avenue SE. has yet to be approved by the state. No building permit will be issued until the signal is approved, Barnett said.
The light as proposed so far would serve only the Wal-Mart store, while state officials would like it to serve other potential nearby development and relieve traffic on 35th Avenue SE., said traffic engineer Dongho Chang.
It's rare that snags such as this can't be overcome, Barnett said.
"It's an uphill battle," Bonham acknowledged. "We should have started a year or 10 years ago. But we're not giving up."
Residents have several objections to the national chain of stores.
"It's the combination of environmental impacts as well as the socioeconomic impacts," Lowe said. Traffic and pavement are the primary environmental concerns, she said.
"I guess the biggest thing that bothers me is the way they achieve low prices at the expense of their employees and other small businesses in the area," Bonham said. "There's nowhere in the Mill Creek area where you could afford homes on their salaries."
Eric Berger, spokesman for the Wal-Mart Northwest regional office, could not be reached for comment.
Mill Creek city officials estimate Wal-Mart would bring in "a couple of hundred thousand" dollars a year to the city in sales tax revenue beginning in 2007, city manager Steve Nolen said. "We think that's a pretty conservative estimate."
Lowe said tax revenue can also be brought in by small businesses, pointing to the city's Town Center as an example.
Residents also object to the appearance of what they call a "big box" store. The Wal-Mart will adhere to Mill Creek's design standards, which are tougher than the county's.
That won't help much, Lowe said.
"We have an elephant, and this elephant has to wear mascara, but it's still an elephant," she said.
Elephants? Mascara? It's all madness, I tell you, madness. The poor Wal-Mart employees can't afford homes on their salaries? Gee, I was unaware of the obligation for employers to pay a salary high enough for home ownership to all workers, regardless of job title, skills or experience. I feel like a fool waiting for so long to buy a house. I should have just walked right up to my first boss and demanded a $75,000 a year pay raise. Do you figure all the kids working at the McDonald's in Mill Creek own homes?
Of course, Mill Creek is a suburb of Seattle and has plenty of other stores in its tax base. We have no such luxury. Pullman's future hangs in the balance as our local mixture of elitist intelligentsia and union lucre stir around in the witch's caludron.