Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Round 2 of PARD vs. Wal-Mart set for court Wednesday"

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development will continue its battle to keep Wal-Mart out of Pullman when it returns to the Whitman County Superior Court on Wednesday.

A second hearing in PARD’s appeal is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and could decide the question of whether Wal-Mart can build on Bishop Boulevard.

PARD, formed in January 2005, has been fighting Wal-Mart’s proposal for a 223,000-square-foot super center. Group members have challenged Wal-Mart on everything from its business practices to possible encroachment on the adjacent Pullman Cemetery.

The appeal stemmed from a decision by Hearing Examiner John Montgomery upholding the city’s approval of Wal-Mart’s site plan and environmental checklist.

The group believes the Wal-Mart store would have significant detrimental impacts on the local environment, including traffic conditions, stormwater runoff, and noise and light pollution. The group also believes Wal-Mart would hurt the local economy by driving out small businesses and putting more people onto state-provided social services.

Montgomery’s findings to the contrary were not based on sufficient evidence, PARD argued.

Judge David Frazier ordered Montgomery at an appeal hearing in June to revise his decision and shore up his conclusions with more thorough reasoning and evidence.

Montgomery filed his revised decision Sept. 20 — past the Sept. 15 deadline set by Frazier. The revised decision contained mistakes Montgomery had to correct about one week later.

PARD members believe there were problems in the decision even after the corrections were made.

“I found the hearing examiner’s reasoning contradictory in places and confusing in others,” PARD member Greg Hooks said.

Lawyers for PARD plan to argue that Montgomery’s revised decision should be thrown out.

The group hopes to have Wal-Mart’s application denied altogether. If a new hearing on its original appeal is mandated, PARD wants a new hearing examiner to replace Montgomery.

PARD’s lawyer, David A. Bricklin of Seattle law firm Bricklin Newman Dold LLP, filed a supplemental brief one week ago arguing that Montgomery’s decision was confusing and contradictory.

Bricklin wrote Montgomery cut and pasted sections from materials submitted by Wal-Mart, PARD and the city in a mismatched patchwork that left confusion about the basis for Montgomery’s decision to uphold the city’s approval of Wal-Mart’s site plan and environmental checklist.

Bricklin reiterated arguments made in earlier briefings that Montgomery didn’t have enough information about the possible traffic impacts of the super center when he made his decision. Bricklin also claims the city failed to adequately consider the possible fiscal impacts of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the town.

A memorandum prepared by Troy Woo in January 2005 analyzing the impacts of a Wal-Mart on city services and infrastructure was presented during the January hearing, but Bricklin argues Woo’s analysis is insufficient.

Hooks doesn’t believe Woo’s memorandum was ever intended to serve as a fiscal impact study, as Wal-Mart claimed.

Lawyers for Wal-Mart and the city of Pullman both claim Montgomery’s decision was correct, and Wal-Mart’s application meets the requirements of state and local laws.

Each side will have about an hour to argue its case at Wednesday’s hearing.

Judge David Frazier could issue a decision from the bench at the end of the hearing, or he could opt to take more time to weigh the evidence.

Regardless of his decision, more appeals could come. Whichever side loses this round has the option to appeal to the Division III appellate court in Spokane.

T.V. Reed, a PARD board member, believes the Pullman community will be stronger once the process is done.

“I think the amount of contention around this issue has actually been quite a bit exaggerated,” Reed said. “While I think the Wal-Mart issue has been divisive, I think there is a very strong community-wide feeling we want to grow carefully and don’t want to eliminate those things that bring people to Pullman.”

Wal-Mart timeline

October 2004 — Wal-Mart submits an application for a proposed 223,000-square-foot retail store. Along with general merchandise, the proposed super center would include a grocery store, pharmacy, garden center, and a tire and lube express.

January 2005 — The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development forms to stop Wal-Mart from coming to Pullman.

June 22, 2005 — Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman issues a preliminary determination of nonsignificance on Wal-Mart’s environmental checklist saying the store would not have any significant impact on the surrounding environment. Excluding attachments, more than 300 pages of public comments are submitted in response.

Aug. 25, 2005 — Workman issues a final determination of nonsignificance on Wal-Mart’s environmental checklist.

Sept. 7, 2005 — PARD appeals the final determination of nonsignificance, arguing the decision inadequately addressed questions about the proposed store’s impact on the city cemetery, stormwater runoff, traffic, and air pollution.

Sept. 21, 2005 — Workman approves Wal-Mart’s site plan application, with a set of 35 conditions the company must meet before it can obtain an occupancy permit for the store.

Oct. 3, 2005 — PARD appeals the site plan approval, arguing Workman failed to properly consider the impacts of increased traffic, additional pollution from stormwater runoff, loss of cultural resources, fiscal impacts and economic blight.

October 2005 — Residents form Businesses & Residents for Economic Opportunity. The group’s mission is to support free enterprise, business growth, and healthy competition in the city of Pullman and Whitman County. BREO members have been vocal supporters of the proposed Wal-Mart store.

Jan. 13, Jan. 20 and Jan. 26, 2006 — Spokane land-use attorney John Montgomery presides over two and a half days of public hearings on the environmental checklist and site plan appeals. Testimony is given by residents and experts both in favor of Wal-Mart and opposing the store. Testimony covers issues including traffic, stormwater drainage, noise and light pollution, encroachment upon the Pullman Cemetery and urban blight.

Feb. 24, 2006 — Montgomery issues his decision upholding the city’s site plan and SEPA determinations, with three conditions: Wal-Mart was to suspend construction until it was determined whether any graves from the nearby Pullman Cemetery were located on the building site; a traffic signal at the intersection of Bishop Boulevard and Fairmount Road must be completed before the building can be occupied; and Wal-Mart must study the need for a traffic signal at the intersection of Bishop Boulevard and Professional Mall Boulevard before it can get a permit to construct a gas station.

March 16, 2006 — PARD appeals the hearing examiner’s decision to the Whitman County Superior Court. The 20-page appeal document alleged the proposed store “will have a myriad of negative impacts upon the surrounding community and residents that have not been addressed or mitigated by Wal-Mart or the City of Pullman.”

June 22, 2006 — Judge David Frazier presides over an appeal hearing in the Whitman County Superior Court. Frazier remands the case back to Montgomery, asking him to write a more detailed decision that would provide more reasoning to support his conclusions.

Wednesday — A second appeal hearing is scheduled in the Whitman County Superior Court.
Hey, TV Reed and I agree on something!! I also think the Pullman community will be stronger when the process is done because PARD will no longer exist.

He's also right about exaggerated contentions. PARD has pulled out the kitchen sink in an effort to divide the community, from deer testicles to the intrusion of the lower socioeconomic classes to dead school kids.

And exactly what things would Wal-Mart eliminate that bring people to Pullman? WSU? The wheat fields? State Route 27? Certainly no one is coming to Pullman to shop. Everyone is going elsewhere for that. That's why we need a Wal-Mart.

Hopefully, the judge will stop the fight tomorrow in Round 2.

Technorati Tags:

4 comments:

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

I have to like Timmy's use of contention. It certainly is due to PARD's ridiculous pursuit of a frivilous lawsuit. Go figure.

Any chance Wal-Mart will break ground as soon as a decision is made?

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

Hrm...

The group also believes Wal-Mart would hurt the local economy by driving out small businesses and putting more people onto state-provided social services.

I wonder if your average PARD'ner, who is likely to have socialist leanings, ever twitches while bashing their beloved social services in an attempt to bash Walmart.

Then again, since your average leftist will shamelessly put on whatever face he or she needs to achieve their latest ego stroking goal, probably not.

April E. Coggins said...

Yes, the leftists want universal government health care (except for Wal-Mart employees) and they seem to resent Wal-Mart removing so many people from the welfare rolls. The question that needs to be asked is, what were these Wal-Mart employees doing for health insurance before they were hired by Wal-Mart? I would bet that Wal-Mart removes more people from state subsidised insurance than any other employer. The employees who continue on their government health insurance, do so out of their right to choose which insurance is best for their situation.
The rights of the individual to choose freely is the leftist's worst fear.

Satanic Mechanic said...

They are complaining about light pollution of a Wal-Mart store? I don't see them complaining about the lights at Martin Stadium being on at night.