"So why don't you just shut up!"
Those were the words Moscow City Councilor John Weber directed Monday night at his counterpart Aaron Ament during a feisty discussion of proposed amendments to the city's "big-box store" ordinance.
Mayor Nancy Chaney called for order, after which Ament asked, "Did John end my speaking?"
"He interrupted at an appropriate time," Chaney said.
The exchange subsided and the council promptly voted 3-1 against the amendments that would have added so-called dark store and size limitation provisions to the ordinance.
Curiously, Ament joined with Weber and Councilor Bill Lambert to vote against the amendments, while Councilor Linda Pall cast the lone vote in favor. Ament said he'd be happy to later tell Weber and Lambert why voting with them was really an action against them.
"Your brilliance never ceases to amaze me, Aaron," Weber said.
During a recess, Ament said the big-box ordinance, without the amendments, actually has more teeth than Weber and Lambert realize.
As for Weber's demand he shut up, Ament said, "I'm not going to add my incivility to John Weber's incivility."
So after months of debate, including public hearings about the proposed amendments, the big-box ordinance remains unchanged. That means the door appears to have been reopened for stores like a Wal-Mart Supercenter, something Ament said he doesn't want.
"I want to see a cap. I think it will do this city well." Ament said he was prepared to move that a "compromise" 130,000-square-foot size cap be put on large retail stores. (Wal-Mart Supercenters are usually around 200,000 square feet.) But Ament said without the support of Councilor Bob Stout, he knew a cap proposal would never reach a vote.
Stout announced his resignation last week after being hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign. He's already working in Iowa. Chaney has said she'll announce a replacement for Stout at the June 18 council meeting. Stout's departure, coupled with the disappearance of Councilor John Dickinson last spring, has left two holes in the council. Dickinson, according to authorities, is thought to have fallen or jumped from a bridge into a river in Oregon to avoid being hit by a car at an accident scene.
Weber's interruption of Ament came when the latter had the floor and was complaining about receiving important information late from city staff. Ament said it was "insulting" to be expected to review such information at the 11th hour and then make an informed decision.
"Madam Mayor," Weber blurted out before saying he took umbrage with what Ament said about a hard-working city staff. Ament said he didn't mean to chastise the staff. Chaney suggested everyone return to a more civil form of dialogue, which they did.
Weber and Lambert maintained the big-box store ordinance, as written, is all that's needed. They said the city's conditional-use permit process was enough to keep a rein on retail development.
Pall disagreed, saying members of the Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission had worked hard to propose amendments that would ensure for better-planned retail development. Pall had actually moved to accept the proposed amendments, but her motion died for lack of a second.I could see this coming. Dickinson, Stout and Ament were the "Gang of Three" that opposed the Thompson rezone early last year. Now two of the three are gone, and Ament is up for reelection this fall. A Moscow Supercenter is definitely back in play. We can only pray the Appeals Court in Spokane disposes of PARD's appeal before then.
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