Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"PARD, Wal-Mart still in holding pattern; Local group expects to soon make decision regarding appeal

I thought the KQQQ report on a building permit being issued to Wal-Mart was a little premature. There are a lot of plans to be dusted off from 2005 and tweaks to be made. It might take a few weeks to get everything in order.

As far as PARD polling their "constituents" about an appeal, they had better take a look at the poll at Dnews.com, where a staggering 1,335 people, 83% of all responsdents, say the next step in the Wal-Mart saga is to start building.

PARD may also want to consider passing the hat, because expensive attorneys fees for Wal-Mart and the city may be coming if they push for an appeal to the Supreme Court. The best thing PARD can do at this point is disband their non-profit organization and disperse any assets.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
City has yet to issue building permit for proposed super center

The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development still is trying to decide whether to take its fight against Wal-Mart to the state's highest court.

PARD member T.V. Reed said a decision regarding an appeal has not yet been reached, but he expects one soon. Last week, the group's executive directors decided to hold off until the general membership had a chance to weigh in on the subject.

"Right now, we've got a poll out to our constituents," he said.

The group has been given a deadline of Thursday to give their opinions and a decision should be made soon after, Reed said.

Meanwhile, Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman said Wal-Mart officials have yet to submit any of the permits necessary to begin construction on the proposed Bishop Boulevard super center. He added that the city has had a building application pending with Wal-Mart for "quite some time."

"We would have issued the permit, should they have wanted to take it out," he said. "They haven't asked to actually pull the permit."

Wal-Mart announced plans to build on Bishop Boulevard in October 2004. The project was given a determination of nonsignificance by Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman on the State Environmental Policy Act checklist. The determination means the city believes the project should not have an adverse effect on the environment.

PARD appealed the store's SEPA checklist and site plan on the grounds that the store would affect stormwater run-off, traffic and negatively affect Pullman's local economy.

A Pullman hearing examiner concluded the store's site plan and environmental checklist was sufficient and the decision was upheld by Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier, who dismissed PARD's appeal.

The group then took the case to the Division III Court of Appeals, which deliberated for more than five months. The three-judge panel denied PARD's appeal in a June 3 decision.

Wal-Mart was legally able to begin construction during the appeal process, but a company spokeswoman said the store prefers to wait to build until pending legal matters are resolved.

Workman said he has recently communicated with contractors and designers for Wal-Mart, and he believes that the permit applications are being tweaked before they're officially submitted. Revisions are expected to sections pertaining to site and utility work and possibly building designs, and Workman added that it would not be unusual for the application to be passed back and forth several times before the final version is approved.

"Everything, of course, has been on hold since the appeal," he said, adding that Wal-Mart cannot begin construction without a building permit, but they can move dirt with a grading permit - which they don't yet have either.

Workman estimates that store officials will submit paperwork in "a matter of weeks rather than months," and said he doesn't expect it will take long to give the store permission to start construction. Building plans will be reviewed by the city building department, while site and utility drawings will be assessed by Pullman engineering personnel.

"Given the fact that we've already reviewed so much of (the designs), I'm not anticipating that there won't be a lot of added review," he said.

Wal-Mart Washington Public Affairs Manager Jennifer Spall said contractors likely are putting the finishing touches on the permit. Wal-Mart officials will meet with city staff next week to iron out details regarding possible efficiency and branding changes in the store's design.

"We want to make sure everyone is on the same page," she said.

Spall has said the super center is expected to open in 2010 or 2011.
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