Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How Many Union Reps and Professors Does It Take To Engineer an Intersection?

This could be a preview of what we are in for the next couple of weeks.

Wal-Mart announced plans to build a Supercenter over in Mount Vernon to replace its existing store. The usual suspects (i.e the United Food and Commercial Workers union and local snobs) started a group called “Livable Mount Vernon”. They marched in front of city hall with signs to show their displeasure.

Ultimately, the city issued a Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) in reply to Wal-Mart’s SEPA checklist on March 9, 2005. The MDNS was appealed by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the UFCW Local 44 on March 18. A Hearing Examiner conducted a public hearing on the appeal on March 21. The Hearing Examiner rejected the appeal.

A city council meeting to approve the Wal-Mart application followed the appeal. About 75 union members rallied outside the council meeting holding signs reading “Livable Mount Vernon” and giving short speeches. More than 100 people crammed into the room to hear the council’s decision that didn’t come, even after 5 hours of deliberations. Early on, the WSDOT announced that it had dropped out of the appeal following traffic mitigation plans negotiated by the city, Wal-Mart and the WSDOT. The UFCW, predictably, was not happy with the traffic agreement. Here are the minutes from that City Council meeting. You can read for yourself the hysterical position the union was left in after WSDOT backed out, trying to come up with “expert” witnesses to testify about traffic. My favorite quote goes as follows:
Mr. Tilghman provided further comment on behalf of the Union. He has reviewed the MDNS, the concurrency narrative, the traffic analysis and staff reports and it is the Union’s contention that the MDNS does not adequately address the SEPA requirements and the proposed adjustments to the Hoag/LaVenture and Hoag/Continental intersections do not meet the concurrency requirements. The reports are neither clear nor concise, nor do they address the analysis that has been made. Mr. Tilghman’s professional qualifications were discussed and it was ascertained that he is not an engineer by training or license.
I can’t wait to see all the “expert” witnesses PARD tries to trot out tomorrow (Why, I have 20 years experience teaching ultra-left wing subjects, blah, blah, blah, bow down before my knowledge of small business economics, traffic and cemeteries!!). Judy Krueger’s husband will probably testify on how light causes sleep deprivation in mice. It will be a hoot.

I also like this, but Wal-Mart supporters WILL be at our hearing.:
Don Gordon, Mount Vernon resident, brought testimony in favor of the proposal. He stated that the majority of the residents of Mount Vernon were not at this meeting because they did not appeal this decision and were in support of the applicant’s proposed project.
Another council meeting was held on May 17, 2005. I’ll let the Skagit Valley Herald continue from here:

Mount Vernon clears way for Wal-Mart supercenter

BY BEVERLY CRICHFIELD STAFF WRITER

City Council OKs plans, with road improvements

MOUNT VERNON — With little discussion, City Council members gave Wal-Mart the thumbs up Tuesday night to move forward with plans to build a 207,000-square-foot supercenter west of the freeway north of Lowe's.

But the council also is requiring the developer of the Freeway Drive Plaza project, which includes Wal-Mart, to complete about $1.4 million of road improvements.

Once the new supercenter is completed, Wal-Mart will vacate its current discount store east of the freeway, near Safeway.

As part of Tuesday's unanimous decision, the council also denied an appeal by the local food workers' union of the city's environmental review of the project. Councilman Dale Ragan abstained from voting.

"It's sad," said Susan Riedel, another opponent who has been doggedly following the Wal-Mart project and who lives just west of the proposed project site.

Wal-Mart supporters smiled and nodded in approval when the council votes were tallied.

"Wal-Mart is a good company and treats us right," said Nancy Thomas, community involvement coordinator with Mount Vernon's Wal-Mart store.

Tuesday night's meeting was a continuance of last week's five-hour council hearing to consider the project and appeals by the union and the state Department of Transportation.

Traffic has been the central focus of concerns about the project, which includes the supercenter and other retail stores on a 30-acre site at the corner of Freeway Drive and Stewart Road.

The union asserts that plans by the city and developer to improve several nearby intersections, including Hoag and LaVenture Road and Hoag Road and Continental Place, will not adequately handle the additional traffic generated by the project.

The state said the city's traffic impact analysis, as part of the environmental review, should have included the congested College Way freeway interchange. City officials had said the city codes exempted the interchange from a review to examine whether additional traffic to the development would cause traffic flow to drop below the city's acceptable level of traffic service.

As a result of the state's appeal, the state, city and developer have spent the past month hammering out an improvement plan for the interchange that the state says will make traffic flow more smoothly.

The plan calls for:

-Widening the northbound freeway off-ramp and building a 400-foot-long right-hand turn pocket — three times as long as the current right-turn lane to keep traffic turning left from blocking the right-turn lane.

-Widening the southbound off-ramp and building a 400-foot-long left-turn lane.

-Paying to install new traffic controllers at the traffic signals, whichwill allow better synchronization of the traffic lights along College Way, Market Street, Freeway Drive and Riverside Drive and improve traffic flow.

-Installing cameras at the north- and southbound freeway ramps to help the state remotely control the traffic signals in case of backups and heavy traffic flow.

-Paying the state up to $45,000 for improvement construction, design and review costs.

The state agreed to drop its appeal when the council decided to require the improvements as a condition of building the project.

The developer, Pacific Northwest Development, also has agreed to make improvements to Freeway Drive and Stewart Road in front of the Wal-Mart project and pay the city $115,000 to restripe the Hoag and LaVenture roads and Continental Place and Hoag Road intersections to better accommodate traffic.

All of the improvements must be finished before Wal-Mart can open its new store.

The council said the proposed improvements to local roads, construction conditions of the project, including limiting truck traffic east of the College Way freeway interchange, and environmental review and mitigation process met all city and state requirements.

Some city residents had complained that they weren't allowed to make comments on aspects of the project other than the traffic impacts, council member John Cheney said.

But Cheney said residents have future opportunities to help change the city's codes and allow the city to consider impacts other than traffic for similar projects.

"Stay tuned to the creation of city ordinances in the future and make sure they encompass the thoughts and considerations you think should be on the table," Cheney said.
So now we've seen the UFCW footing the bill in Mount Vernon and Mill Creek. Why doesn't PARD just come and out and embrace their union comrades? Could it be that anyone can see through the UFCW's crass self-interest by claiming to be "experts" on traffic (or whatever is convenient) and putting defeating Wal-Mart before any kind of rational thought or logic. They don't care about traffic any more the towns they supposedly are "protecting". They're just furthering their own agenda. The UFCW is practicing the same "scorched earth" policy they accuse Wal-Mart of promoting. And the local bleeding-heart liberals and elitist smart-growthers get duped into going along for the ride.

Does all this sound familiar? It should, except for the really fast resolution to the appeal. What's happening now in Pullman comes right out of the UFCW playbook. But remember, this was a MITIGATED DNS in Mount Vernon, much worse than what the Pullman Planning Department issued. That ruling was a finding of nonsignifiance, with only minor issues requiring no major mitigation. I don't think Wal-Mart will have any problems with the appeal hearing. The burden of proof is all on PARD, and they have nothing. They can't go in there and argue about sweatshops in Bangladesh or lawsuits or any of that other propaganda. If it does come before the Pullman City Council, then I really have no concerns.

2 comments:

April E. Coggins said...

I will be at the hearing tomorrow. I feel like a kid at Christmas waiting to hear and see "the proof" of PARD's allegations. Perry Mason is sure to wheel himself down the aisle at the last second with a surprise witness. I could be shocked that they have another liberal, never heard from before, flown in special from Berkeley, to give "expert" testimony. It will be entertaining, to say the least.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

How many professors are in PARD?