Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"Court gives Wal-Mart the go-ahead; Development alliance fails in its latest efforts to stop super center from coming to Pullman"

"There are other things besides legal options" was all TV Reed could sputter after a terse, damning and irrevocable decision handed down by the Court of Appeals yesterday. There is no possible way that the Washington State Supreme Court will hear this case. Judge Frazier may have indulged the PARDners a bit back in 2006, but the appellate court forcefully slammed the door, shooting down every single one of PARD's objections in detail. As Pullman City Attorney Laura McAloon said, "The court rejected all their arguments." The only thing missing from the decision was a statement of "why did you bother wasting our time like this?"

But, there is no graceful exit for PARD. They have turned this battle over Wal-Mart into a personal battle. Overinflated professorial egos have become involved. It's a town vs. gown battle royale. Reed, Chris Lupke, et. al., have enjoyed nearly 4 years of media coverage and seeming importance as "players" in the community. I have a feeling that they will not go gentle into that good night. In a repeat of what happened over in Chelan with the "Defenders of Small Town Chelan," rather than conceding defeat, PARD will just be overcome by events and gradually become irrelevant.

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
PULLMAN - Barring another legal challenge or some other unforeseen hurdle, the path appears clear again for the world's largest retailer to move toward construction of a retail super center here.

Wal-Mart, Pullman City Attorney Laura McAloon said Tuesday, simply has to apply for a building permit.

But not so fast, countered T.V. Reed, spokesman for the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development. "There are other things besides legal options."

The super center construction stage was reset late Tuesday morning when three judges for the Washington Division III Court of Appeals shot down PARD's latest efforts to stymie Wal-Mart's plans.

"They lost on all counts," McAloon said of PARD's appeal of a lower court decision upholding site plan approval and a determination of environmental nonsignificance for the development on Bishop Boulevard.

Tom Forbes, spokesman for Businesses & Residents for Economic Opportunity, lauded the court's decision in a news release and described Tuesday as "a great day to be a resident of Pullman."

Forbes also urged PARD members to abandon any more "pointless and baseless legal maneuvers" aimed at delaying what is inevitable. "Our answer to a growing demand for retail services in Pullman cannot continue to be go shop in Moscow, Lewiston, Clarkston, or Spokane instead," Forbes wrote.

Reed suggested the appellate judges may have ruled otherwise if they'd been privy to the latest city traffic study. He said the study outlines "huge issues" surrounding the Wal-Mart plan.

"I disagree," McAloon said. "The court rejected all their arguments."

Pullman City Supervisor John Sherman agreed the 36-page opinion amounts to a construction green light for Wal-Mart. "That's what we anticipate, that they will now be moving ahead with the project." He called the court ruling a "vindication" of city staff who'd been accused of caving to corporate strong-arm tactics.

Sherman said the arrival of Wal-Mart in Pullman is the product of the free market and that city government, while regulating business activity, can't be in the business of deciding what companies are good or bad. "It's not up to us to make a judgment," he said.

Dean Logsdon, of CLC Associates and a spokesman for the Wal-Mart project, could not be reached for comment. CLC, headquartered in the Spokane Valley, was hired by Wal-Mart in 2004 to move the super center plan ahead. The city approved CLC's site plan and also issued a determination of nonsignificance under Washington's State Environmental Policy Act.

Shortly after, PARD sought an administrative review of the decisions and hearings were held. Spokane attorney John Montgomery acted as the hearing officer and after days of testimony he affirmed both city decisions. PARD appealed to Whitman County Superior Court, where Judge David Frazier upheld Montgomery by dismissing PARD's appeal. That's when PARD sought remedy from the appellate court.

The group's appeal challenged site approval requirements for pedestrian-vehicle traffic, fiscal impact and consistency with Pullman's comprehensive plan. In addition, the appeal contended the city failed to comply with SEPA requirements in its assessment of traffic-pedestrian impact and urban blight.

The original super center plan called for construction of a 223,000-square-foot Wal-Mart store on 28 acres adjacent to Pullman Regional Hospital. The store was proposed to remain open 24 hours and would include groceries, general merchandise, a pharmacy, a garden center, and a tire and lube express. Plans for a gasoline station were scrapped. A total of 1,039 parking places, where overnight campers would be allowed, were also planned.

"The superior court's order upholding the examiner's decisions as to both the site plan permit approval and the DNS is affirmed," the opinion concludes.
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