COUNTY SHOULD NOT CAVE IN TO GOLIATH
Goliath, also known as the Wal-Mart corporation, has hit a snag in its quest to build an 185,000-square-foot supercenter in Hood River. The world's largest corporation has been told prior to the recent planning commission meeting by Hood River County planners that they would recommend the existing site plan be denied.
MIKE BENEDICT, the county planning director, was quoted as saying, "We're not saying they can't have a store; what we are saying is that the design and function of the development doesn't currently conform to the applicable requirements." An 80-page staff report outlines the problems the giant will have to remedy.
The problems include:
Potential loss of habitat if Phelps Creek is relocated and no longer has mature riparian vegetation along its banks.
The possibility that placement of 60,000 yards of fill material could bring flooding problems to neighboring properties.
Insufficient traffic information to ensure the added travel to and from the store would not create safety problems and vehicle congestion.
Height, bulk and scale of the visible portions of the new Wal-Mart would dominate the surrounding landscape.
Failure to meet aesthetic standards.
Inadequate data to ensure that on-site development would not bring flooding to adjacent lands.
WAL-MART, PRIOR to the planning commission meeting on Sept. 25, asked to postpone the hearing to early 2003. We are surprised that a corporation the size of Wal-Mart would not have done its homework better and been prepared to adequately answer these and the other concerns of the Hood River planning department and a significant segment of the local population. It would appear that instead Wal-Mart expects counties and cities to just do what they are told.
Since Wal-Mart has met a serious hurdle in Hood River, the cities of La Grande and Island City and the county should make sure that they safeguard our community from the type of bully mentality that sometimes occurs when a large chain tries to locate a super store. Wal-Mart officials and Becker Construction should not think that they will have a cakewalk when it comes to locating a supercenter on the site along Island Avenue. The county and cities can try and cook the population numbers but the real truth will be told when they are challenged in Salem.
Overzealous corporations can be stopped from destroying a community. As we've said before, Wal-Mart already is a presence in Union County with the company's 72,000- square-foot store. There is no reason to decimate the local retail market to satisfy the greed of one corporation. We can only hope that our county planning department will be as vigilant as their counterparts are in Hood River.