Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"New group looks to keep Chelan Wal-Mart open"

Speaking of Chelan, the citizens are starting to fight back. From today's Wenatchee World:
A new group of Chelan Wal-Mart supporters is threatening to take Defenders of Small Town Chelan to court if it succeeds in closing the new store, which opened here last week.

Still unnamed, the group is being organized by Mike Stowe, who said his main purpose is to challenge Defenders of Small Town Chelan, and to sue the group for lost wages if Wal-Mart is forced to close.

"This is probably something we should have done a long time ago," said Stowe, who owns Chelan Valley Tours and also installs Internet service for a local cable franchise.

On Thursday, Defenders of Small Town Chelan asked the Chelan City Council to revoke Wal-Mart's occupancy permit, but the council took no action.

The request came after Chelan County Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan ruled last month that Wal-Mart's 162,000-square-foot building is more than three times bigger than the limits the city placed on the business park's development plan four years ago.

Earlier this month, the judge left it up to the city to rectify its zoning error, and whether to let Wal-Mart open on Jan. 22.

Defenders told the council on Thursday that the city is obliged by its own laws to close the store until the zoning is legally resolved.

"We knew it was a difficult thing to ask," said Laurel Jamtgaard, a Defenders spokeswoman. She said the council could have taken action even though the request was not on the agenda.

Jamtgaard said citizens have the legal right to challenge the city. She said Defenders of Small Town Chelan should not be liable for lost employee wages because it won its lawsuit. Chelan should not have issued the permit, and Wal-Mart should not have built the store while the legality of the zoning permit was still in question, she said.

Jamtgaard added that the threat of a lawsuit won't intimidate them. "His case is frivolous, and I don't believe an attorney would pick it up," she said.

Stowe said he received 38 e-mails from people wanting to join the pro-Wal-Mart cause by Monday after announcing his intention to form the group on a Chelan radio show on Saturday.

He said he doubts Defenders of Small Town Chelan will be successful in shutting down Wal-Mart. But if it is, he's already talked to two lawyers about suing to hold Defenders of Small Town Chelan responsible for the wages and benefits of the Wal-Mart employees, as well as those who have small businesses at the front of the store.

"Hopefully, they'll get the message and say, 'The natives are restless, so let's drop it,' " he said. And if Defenders drops its effort to close the store, he said, "we'll just disband."

The group also believes that Defenders of Small Town Chelan doesn't represent the "true" citizens of Chelan.
Good luck, Mike. Unfortunately, the natives have been restless in Pullman for years and that hasn't made our local anti-Wal-Mart group drop anything.

As for Laurel Jamtaggard, she ought to know about frivilous lawsuits.

Trust me, if there were any way to sue PARD, I'd be the first plaintiff in line.

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