Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Defenders: Wal-Mart should pay $5 mil or close"

Speaking of Oompah, read this article from the Lake Chelan Mirror :
Settlement met with resistance from city, Wal-Mart

Defenders of Small Town Chelan filed a Writ of Mandamus last week, requesting that the City of Chelan force Wal-Mart to close until valid building and fill-and-grade permits are granted.

This request comes after Defenders asked the city at its Jan. 25 council meeting to take action to close the store. The council didn’t comply.

“Wal-Mart has initiated a process to amend the zoning code to make its store legal. Defenders of Small Town Chelan welcomes a thorough examination of that proposal through an open public process,” states a Defenders press release. “In the meantime, Defenders of Small Town Chelan strongly believes that the city code must be enforced, and that Wal-Mart must not be rewarded for building, stocking, staffing and opening its store in violation of the zoning, even as the successful legal challenge was pending.”

A settlement was also proposed by Defenders, which states that the store may remain open and the group will retract its request for a Writ of Mandamus if the following requirements are met:

• The City of Chelan, with help from Chelan County, would establish a Planned Development Authority for the Chelan Valley, from Stehekin to Chelan Falls.

• The city must follow the law closely in the amendment process for its zoning codes, and implement an independent market analysis of Wal-Mart’s impact on Chelan’s economy.

The city must set aside 10 percent of sales taxes received from Wal-Mart annually for the Planned Development Authority over the next 10 years .

Wal-Mart must pay $5 million to the Planned Development Authority, which would help pay for a new aquatic and recreational center in Chelan .

Wal-Mart must pay up to $50,000 each in legal fees for Defenders and the City of Chelan .

A hearing for the Writ of Mandamus and the settlement will be held Feb. 12 at Chelan County Superior Court at 9:30 a.m.

“The settlement definitely identifies that this is now a financial issue,” said Chelan Mayor Jay Witherbee in an interview last week. “They’ve identified a dollar amount that will allow them to drop legal action against the city.”

“Clearly, the Defenders interpreted the decision differently than we did,” he added. “It would be historically inconsistent to close a store when they are actively seeking a remedy. What we’re doing is one of the remedies the judge outlined verbatim in her order.”

“It’s unacceptable to us,” said Wal-Mart spokesperson Jennifer Holder of the settlement proposal. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s kind of indicative that they’re willing to have us in the community at a price.”

Holder pointed out that Wal-Mart has donated over $40,000 to community organizations and schools in Chelan and Manson.

“We’re against the settlement, not against a swimming pool or rec center,” Holder said, adding that the Chelan store has collected over 5,000 signatures in favor of keeping the store open.

Both Holder and Witherbee stated that Wal-Mart and the city continue to work together toward amending the zoning code.

Wal-Mart and the city each submitted appeals last week of Judge Lesley Allan’s Jan. 16 decision to declare the store’s building and fill-and-grade permits invalid.

Witherbee said the city filed Wednesday with the Division 3 Court of Appeals, and the process could take over a year.

“We’ve been consistent and confident that we did not violate the zoning orders,” Witherbee said.

Defenders spokesperson Laurel Jamtgaard said the group feels they’re “just following through on the process.”

The idea to have Wal-Mart help fund a new rec center came from several Chelan residents, she added.

The Defenders’ inclusion of the plans for a rec center, however, does not mean the group is interlinked with the Community Center Committee.

“Our group has not joined with the Defenders group in their legal action on the Wal-Mart issue,” committee leader Scott McKellar wrote in a statement Monday morning. “We have not taken a poll of our group to determine where our members stand on this issue. We have not discussed the potential of joining ranks with the Defenders.”

McKellar added that the committee will continue to keep its focus on a rec center, not on the Wal-Mart issue.

“If it’s not feasible to close the store, we wanted to look for an idea that would benefit the community,” Jamtgaard said. “The idea of [a Planned Development Authority] is that the whole Chelan Valley could benefit from thinking in an interconnected way.”

A group recently started by Mike Stowe, The People of Chelan, have hired attorney Jim Danialson of Wenatchee and are ready to move on to the next legal step, Stowe wrote in a statement Sunday. The group plans to challenge legal actions taken by Defenders of Small Town Chelan.

The People of Chelan planned to meet Monday to get more organized, Stowe said.

“I’m not surprised by their settlement offer,” Stowe said of the Defenders. “It speaks volumes to the truth about who they are and what they really want. One thing is for sure, they have uncapped the silent majority of Chelan and the people of the town are ready to fight now.”

The print edition of the article even has a boxed statement in the middle titled "Definition of Extortion, Webster's Dictionary", with the complete definition which implies unethical and criminal like behavior.

I'm in touch with Mike Stowe in Chelan and we have been trading ideas and strategies. You can expect some developments on that front soon.

I have talked to a lot of people who know, and the arrogance being shown by the "Defenders" is staggering, even for snobby elitist Wal-Mart hating moonbats. That's saying something. Here you have a small UNELECTED group of people, acting against the will of the vast majority of residents, who are using blackmail and extortion to create a government organization that presumably they would use to legitimize and expand their newfound "authority." And all because they have received thousands of dollars in "donations" from unnamed sources, many probably not even from Chelan.

And what's worse, since they won the court battle but lost the war, the "Defenders" are now desperately trying to manufacture a "victory" that can justify their radical, despicable actions that have divided the community, put the city of Chelan at potentially great legal risk, and most vilely of all, threatened the livelihoods of some 200 of their neighbors. They have imperiously decided what the community "wants," even without the blessing of the committee in charge of the project. And who can blame the community center committee? It would be taking blood money.

"Who they are and what they really want." That's obvious. Outsiders, both from Chelan and the mainstream, pursuing their own selfish dreams of ego and power and the poor misguided bystanders that have been dragged along with them.

PS: Notice the link to the PARD website that the Defenders have up on their website here (about 3/4 of the way down the page). What will PARD's price be?

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