Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wal-Mart Update

I've been getting many questions as to what happens next with the Pullman Wal-Mart Supercenter.

This is from the Pullman Planning Dept. November 2006 newsletter:
With revised documentation from the hearing examiner on hand at the proceedings in October, Judge Frazier decided to uphold Mr. Montgomery’s determination. This Superior Court decision can be appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals in Spokane. The appeal period is 30 days from the date Judge Frazier signs the court order. He is expected to sign this document soon.
Judge Frazier signed the decision on November 1. PARD therefore has until Friday, December 1, to file an appeal.

Any appeals from here on out could be rather costly for PARD/UFCW. PARD would be required to reimburse the city and Wal-Mart for legal expenses should their appeal fail, plus they will likely be required to post an appeal bond (for possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars) for damages caused to Wal-Mart by the construction delay. That bondwould be forfeited if PARD lost their appeal.

To appeal or not appeal. That is the question. PARD will no doubt milk their final few moments of infamy for all their worth. They have a meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 30.

In the meantime, here are some quotes from Thinh Nguyen's story on the appeal hearing that appeared in the Whitman County Gazette on October 26. As usual, the Gazette offered the best coverage (an a picture of TV Reed wearing a red shirt and looking a bit like Marlowe's Dr. Faustus)
At the hearing PARD argued it did not have to supply detailed counter studies when it claimed the city and Wal-Mart had not provided proper impact studies. PARD argued it had met its requirement in the challenge by pointing out what it believed to be the shortcomings in traffic, environmental and fiscal impact studies.

Wal-Mart and the city's attorneys argued that when the city approved Wal-Mart's site plan, inherent in the approval was the city's determination that it had sufficient information to proceed according to its city code.

Judge Frazier agreed.

"The appealing party has the burden of proof," Frazier said.


Wal-Mart attorney Jack McCullough countered Bricklin's arguments, saying proof of the actual impacts demanded by PARD, was not Wal-Mart's responsibility.

"That's not the way the process works," McCullough said. "You've seen this elaborate exercise to turn the burden of proof on its head."

He said PARD had no evidence to support its claims that the impact studies were inadequate. PARD was required to provide any contrary evidence with its own studies, he said, and did not produce them before the hearing examiner during the January hearing.

"They had no evidence then, and they have no evidence now," he said.


Pullman City attorney Laura McAloon argued the city was the lead agency in determining what facts were sufficient and that Pullman was able to apply its "unique expertise."

On the impact to private businesses, the city studied neither Starbuck's impact on Daily Grind nor Fireside Grille on Swilly's, McAloon pointed out.


When Frazier addressed the urban blight concerns, he said economic impact in and of itself is not an environmental impact. He said unless PARD could show how economic impacts shape the environment, an environmental impact study would not be required.
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