Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, February 27, 2006

“Denied appeal ends Wal-Mart debate”

More coverage on the denial of PARD’s appeals, this time from Kelsey Moll of the Daily Evergreen. All in all, a very fair, balanced and accurate story.

After three hearing sessions and almost 30 days, hearing examiner John Montgomery decided Friday to deny appeals to the proposed Wal-Mart. Or to paraphrase Chris Lupke and TV Reed, “PARD’s dumb deal is done.”

“In some ways it’s a mixed decision,” City Supervisor John Sherman said. “The hearing examiner denied the appeal but he required some changes.” A mixed decision? That’s like saying the Super Bowl was a mixed decision because Seattle had more offensive yards than Pittsburgh. But I don’t think the Seahawks cared a whit about that, as the Steelers were the ones who walked away with the rings and the Lombardi Trophy.

The conditions include requirements for Wal-Mart to put in a traffic signal on Bishop Boulevard and Fairmont Road. Before the appeal, Wal-Mart was going to wait until the traffic volume required the signal, but now the signal must be operational before the store opens.

The original agreement was that Wal-Mart would pay for 20 percent of the cost of the new signal, but the hearing examiner decided the percentage could be negotiated and decided by the city, Sherman said.

“There are a lot of mixed opinions out there whether it’s a good or bad development for Pullman, but at least we do have finality,” Sherman said. “Hopefully the community can move beyond the controversy.” The community can. It’s just the couple of dozen diehard PARD jihadis that can’t and won’t

There is a chance for another appeal if Wal-Mart or Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development wants to file, Sherman said. The appeal is to the superior court and the petition must be filed by March 20. There’s more than just a chance of another appeal. The smart money (and the union money) has us going into Round 15 of the Ideology vs. Common Sense title fight.

There has been talk of putting the Wal-Mart issue to public vote, Sherman said, but the city can not do that because the property where Wal-Mart wants to build is zoned for that type of use. I hope John Sherman was either joking or misquoted. A public vote on Wal-Mart would be the most spectacularly stupid idea in the history of Pullman. The city would be bankrupted from the resultant lawsuit, and the precedent that would be set would virtually guarantee that Pullman would never see a new business open again.

TV Reed, legal liaison for PARD, said the hearing examiner agreed with many of their suggestions but could not legally make a change because of the property’s zoning. Agreed with many of their suggestions? What decision is Reed reading? The one I have says the following:

  • No credible evidence exists to suggest that urban blight will result from approval of the proposal under SEPA. The mere suggestion of such does not establish a significant environmental concern requiring preparation of a Final Impact Analysis under SEPA or a fiscal impact analysis (sorry Cynthia Hosick, you’ll just have to harass the Hawkins Companies to pay for your grand Palouse-wide economic impact study now or keep letting your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages).

  • Wal-Mart has mitigated impacts of its proposal on the Pullman Cemetery (sorry Bob Grunewald, the “ass-end” awaits).

  • Wal-Mart is without legal ability to remove existing trees within the cemetery site (sorry Don Orlich, it was a vicious rumor that Wal-Mart was going to cut down any of the “old growth” trees around the cemetery).

  • As mitigated the proposal does not result in a significant environmental impact requiring the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement and the DNS is approved.

  • Although expert testimony was introduced stating impacts from surface runoff, the plans comply in all respects with the existing laws of the City of Pullman and pertinent laws and regulations of the State of Washington.

  • The exterior lighting scheme sufficiently mitigates any environmental harm requiring further mitigation or additional study. The proposed lighting plan does not arise to a level adversely affecting the environment within an urbanized area particularly when reasonable effort has been made to reduce fugitive light (sorry James Krueger, I guess the deer testicles will be shriveling after all).

  • The proposal complies with other laws of the City of Pullman including generally its Comprehensive Plan (sorry Marcie Gilliland).

  • “It was clear in the decision that the hearing examiner heard and took seriously a number of concerns that PARD raised, but the limited zoning laws and low standards the city has in environmental, traffic and other areas, left him very little room to support our efforts,” Reed said. It’s reassuring to see that PARD is already at “Anger” in the Five Stages of Grieving. The first stage, “Denial”, was obvious from the comments on the PARD website, which don’t even mention that their appeals were denied, rather taking credit for a “significant mitigation” and “improving public safety”. This ludicrous contention has been repeated all over the media (see Reed’s comments below). Just three more stages to go now until “Acceptance”.

    It makes it clear Pullman needs to make comprehensive zoning laws in order to have a safe community, Reed said.

    PARD is disappointed with the decision as a whole, but glad there is going to be significant mitigation.

    “Because of the actions of many Pullman citizens, the project as outlined is better than the original but still has flaws that need to be addressed,” Reed said. I’m sure the flaws are that Wal-Mart is allowed to build at all or even to exist.

    PARD will discuss whether they will appeal the decision at their meeting on Wednesday, Reed said. The only thing to discuss Wednesday night is if the UFCW will pony up the money for the appeal. And why shouldn’t they? Even though PARD has no prayer of winning, they can hold up Wal-Mart that much longer for what to the union is a drop in the bucket financially.

    Tom Forbes, co-founder of Businesses and Residents for Economic Opportunity, said BREO is happy with the decision.

    “It’s a great day for Pullman,” Forbes said. “Hopefully we can move forward and reap the benefits of economic growth in Pullman.”

    People had a chance to speak their mind about the project and the third-party hearing examiner took the comments into consideration while making his decision, Forbes said.

    “We hope that everyone would think about Pullman’s future and join us in welcoming Wal-Mart to our community,” he said.

    Sherman said he is glad a decision has been made and hopes it will put an end to the community division.

    “Whether we agree with it or not, I think we have to respect the opinion that he’s rendered,” Sherman said. Are you listening PARDners?

    Technorati Tags:


    April E. Coggins said...

    My favorite part of the decision was page 8.

    Fiscal Impacts:

    39. Testimony presented suggested that businesses with in the downtown area of Pullman would be harmed because of competition from Wal-Mart. Other testimony suggested that Wal-Mart would compete with only a limited number of downtown businesses. No credible testimony was presented that urban blight would befall the the City's downtown area as a result of the proposal.

    40. Testimony was presented regarding a lack of social responsibility of Wal-Mart to the communities, and jurisdictions in which they locate. Suggestions of increased crime, the intrusion of undesirable social classes, low wages, failure to provide medical benefits, were presented in great detail. Testimony was also presented that Wal-Mart would provide jobs, business opportunity, and lower prices for the goods they sell and which would have a positive impact on Pullman citizens.

    41. An increase in tax revenues will be available to the City, Whitman County, and the State of Washington.

    April E. Coggins said...

    “It was clear in the decision that the hearing examiner heard and took seriously a number of concerns that PARD raised, but the limited zoning laws and low standards the city has in environmental, traffic and other areas, left him very little room to support our efforts,” Reed said.

    Surely, I am not the only one who is offended by Mr. Reed's comment that we are living in a sub-par city and state! Our standards have been voted on and agreed upon by the citizens of Pullman and the State of Washington. We like it this way, Mr. Reed. We chose our standards and we are proud of our town and state. Apparently, you believe otherwise and places other than Pullman, Washington are preferable to you. U-Haul may be able to help you find your personal Utopia.