Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, November 27, 2006

"PARD prepares new appeal against Wal-Mart"

From the Daily Evergreen:
Two years after the initial proposal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman, a local group is again proceeding with an appeal.

Pullman’s proposed Wal-Mart is set to face another round of legal appeals.

The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development announced Monday it will appeal to the Washington State Court of Appeals in Spokane.

“While the appeal will be costly, we have had great support from thousands of folks in the community, and currently have a new membership drive under way,” PARD legal liaison T.V. Reed said.

The Court of Appeals is nondiscretionary, meaning it must hear all appeals that are filed, according to the court's Web site.

A lower court judge ruled Oct. 18 in favor of Wal-Mart, rejecting an appeal filed by citizens attempting to stop construction of a store in Pullman. Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier ruled PARD did not provide sufficient evidence to overturn the city’s approval of the project.

He decided that City Hearing Examiner John Montgomery’s earlier findings were supported by “substantial evidence in record,” that Montgomery correctly interpreted the legal principles involved and that PARD failed to prove the findings were clearly erroneous.

Frazier added that PARD raised legitimate concerns, but the court’s role was limited in this case. His job was to determine whether the hearing examiner made legal errors, rather than weighing the evidence and facts of the decision itself, he said.

“If I disagree with what he said, that does not matter,” Frazier said.

Wal-Mart first announced its intent to construct a store off Bishop Boulevard in October 2004. The 223,000-square-foot building would be across the street from Safeway.

Concerned residents formed Pullman/People Against Wal-Mart Supercenter in early 2005, with a goal of keeping the retailer out of the city. PAWS later changed its name to the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development. The group claims the store would pose numerous environmental and traffic problems for the area. It also argues existing businesses would face a serious threat from a low-price retailer such as Wal-Mart.

More than a year ago, residents on the other side of the debate formed their own group, Businesses and Residents for Economic Opportunity. BREO members argue Pullman is losing a significant amount of sales revenue to Moscow and other areas, and Wal-Mart would help keep that money in town.

“I'm not surprised that PARD is appealing,” BREO Co-founder Tom Forbes said, “but it's a shame that a small group of people continue to hold Pullman's future hostage because of their ideological agenda."
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