By Joe Smillie
The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) appeal of the site plan for a new 223,000 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter on Bishop Boulevard in Pullman was denied by Hearing Examiner John Montgomery of Spokane.
Montgomery decided to deny the PARD appeal after presiding over three days of public hearings on the Supercenter, including numerous expert witnesses and hours of public testimony.
His decision can be challenged in Whitman County Superior Court until March 20.
Montgomery issued an 18-page decision on what would be the largest commercial development in Pullman. In his ruling, Montgomery said that the site plan review adequately mitigated negative impacts on Pullman, with the exception of the intersections of Bishop and Professional Mall boulevards, and Fairmount and Harvest Drives. That’s actually Fairmount and Grand Ave.
Montgomery included in his decision provisions for striping and signaling those trouble spots before a certificate of occupancy can be issued. This is incorrect also. The signal at Pro Mall and Bishop is only required prior to permitting of a GAS STATION, and only if ANOTHER traffic impact assessment after Wal-Mart opens shows that it is neccessary.
Montgomery also decided that construction must stop if any graves or human remains are found on the site. The proposed site is adjacent to the Pullman Cemetery.
“We obviously hoped it would come out differently,” said PARD spokesman Christopher Lupke. “But the hearing examiner did his best to mitigate some of our concerns. Without PARD, none of that would have come up.” Sure he did. Click here and take a look at PARD’s ten key concerns about Wal-Mart. Which of those did he mitigate? Remember, the signal at Grand and Fairmount was already planned. Montgomery just sped up the timing and required Wal-Mart to pay more than a 20% share. I don’t ever remember PARD lobbying for a light at Pro Mall Blvd, which may never happen anyway.
Lupke said the group’s decision to challenge Montgomery’s ruling in court will depend on the strength of its case, but he doesn’t think PARD will go to court. That’s interesting. Have the brothers of the UFCW given up on PARD? We’ll know that answer to that question soon.
Montgomery’s report said that the City of Pullman has no legal right to impose special considerations for Wal-Mart, regardless of the company’s business practices or rulings from other jurisdictions. Well, that took care of #5-10 on PARD’s list.
Montgomery also stated that the land is zoned general commercial, and, as such, the owners of the land have the right to use the property in a reasonable manner, provided negative impacts are sufficiently mitigated.
Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman said he expected Montgomery’s decision to deny the appeal.
“We put a lot of effort into this case, and we really worked hard to make sure we were following city code and state laws, so any concerns that might be appealed would be taken care of in advance,” he said. In other words, PARD’s appeals were a big fat waste of time and money.
Workman, who approved the final site plan, said he wasn’t sure when CLC Associates, the firm developing the project, will begin work on the 28-acre site.
“Everyone is still digesting the decision and the examiner’s conditions,” said Workman. “But we’re at the point where, barring any legal action, we can start to issue permits once conditions are met.”
Workman said CLC will first have to apply for a grading permit to prepare the land for construction, then it can apply for building permits.
Workman also issued a determination of Non-Significance to the State’s Environmental Policy Act Checklist, stating that any negative effects to Pullman that would stem from construction of the Supercenter were sufficiently addressed by CLC.
“We drew up a long list of impacts that would need to be addressed before we would issue permits, and I think this decision shows we did a good job of it.” Absolutely.
Lupke said that although PARD was formed in response to Wal-Mart, there still are, and he foresees more, planning issues that will affect the City, and the organization plans to have a voice in them. And if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property down in Anatone to sell you. What could PARD ever hope to accomplish now after thoroughly alienating the city government and the majority of residents? They have used up any political capital they ever had with these forlorn appeals and their left-wing rhetoric. PARD is a just a second-rate road company of Man of La Mancha.
“This wasn’t a complete victory for Wal-Mart,” Lupke said. “They may have gotten approval to build, but we made sure that some of the safety and traffic concerns that we had were alleviated, and we are happy to have [END OF ARTICLE] I guess Joe Smillie must have been laughing too hard to finish. That sure sounds like a concession speech to me.
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