Wal-Mart officials don’t believe a recent court ruling in Chelan, Wash., has any relevancy to the potential of a proposed super center in Pullman.
A Dec. 28 decision by Chelan County Court Judge Lesley Allan halted the opening of a Wal-Mart Supercenter after Defenders of Small Town Chelan argued that the city gave Wal-Mart special treatment by allowing the super center to be three times bigger than originally authorized.
Allan reversed the city’s issuance of building permits to the 162,000-square-foot retail store, which is already built and was to open soon. The building’s future has yet to be decided.
Jennifer Holder, Wal-Mart public affairs manager for Washington state, said she had been keeping her eye on the Chelan case.
“It’s two completely different sets of circumstances,” she said. “In Pullman, we have the support of the (city) council.”
Holder noted that Wal-Mart officials had been waiting to apply for building permits in Pullman until they hired a construction crew, not because they were awaiting the verdict in Chelan.
“We’ll know what we’re going to do in Chelan soon, and in Pullman, we’re just waiting for a court date,” she said.
Don Orlich, a member of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development — a grass roots group similar to Defenders of Small Town Chelan — said Allan’s ruling gives him “much hope.”
He said it may demonstrate to the corporation that some people don’t want the retail giant in their community.
“I think it shows them that they no longer run the show,” he said. “People aren’t running around saying they want a Wal-Mart. What will that bring? What did it do to Moscow?”
“I’m very hopeful,” Orlich added. “I would guess that (Wal-Mart is) going to start looking at what they’re doing.”
PARD spokesman T.V. Reed did not return calls seeking comment.
Tom Forbes, a member of Businesses and Residents for Economic Opportunity — which formed as a counter group to PARD — said the Chelan ruling is “unfortunate,” but it’s not a matter of if Wal-Mart will come, but when.
“Wal-Mart is very patient,” Forbes said, noting that Wal-Mart as a business has every right to set up shop in Pullman. “It’s all just a question of timing.”
Wal-Mart announced plans to build a super center on Bishop Boulevard in October 2004. PARD appealed the city’s approval of the retail corporation’s environmental checklist and site plan. PARD’s appeal was dismissed in October 2005 when Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier considered the arguments of attorneys for Wal-Mart, the city and PARD on issues such as traffic and the proposed store’s effect on the local economy.
PARD will now take its case to the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Spokane. A hearing date has not been set.
Forbes said the Chelan ruling will not diminish his support of Wal-Mart’s plans to locate in Pullman.
“Wherever Wal-Mart goes, there’s controversy. You can’t choose who your neighbors are going to be and that applies to businesses too,” he said. “It’s not really battles over zoning issues or that kind of thing, but it’s over cultures.” So that settles that.
Oh, and Don, you don't see anyone "running around saying they want a Wal-Mart?" How about us "small handful of Wal-Mart fanatics," the "Wal-Mart promoters," and the "Wal-Mart groupies?" I'm hurt.
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