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City OKs Wal-Mart at 182nd

Opposition group will appeal city's decision

The city of Gresham has approved a controversial plan to build a Wal-Mart store near the intersection of Powell Boulevard and 182nd Avenue.

City officials OK'd the retail giant's plans for a 122,000-square-foot supercenter on Thursday, July 27, saying Wal-Mart had met the city's standards for traffic and transportation.

Wal-Mart opponents said Friday that they would appeal the decision.

'A variety of factors motivated the community to oppose Wal-Mart,' said Mike Price, a spokesman for Gresham First, a local smart growth campaign that was one of the best-organized opponents of the Gresham Wal-Mart. 'Gresham First will pursue our mission to promote quality development and this isn't it.'

The 122,000-square-foot supercenter is a paired-down version of Wal-Mart's original proposal, which got knocked down by city planners and then a city hearings officer last year.

A few weeks after the city denied Wal-Mart's plan, saying the 200,000-square-foot shopping center would tax nearby traffic systems, the retailer purchased the 11-acre parcel and said it would pursue a Gresham supercenter.

The company came back a few months later with a scaled-down plan, which has a smaller footprint and fewer parking spaces, but still includes both grocery and retail sections like the original supercenter.

'The proposal was changed from mammoth to huge,' Price said. 'It's ridiculous to think that reducing the square footage alone will change the draw (of daily customers) significantly.'

City planners disagree. Most methods of figuring out traffic are calculated on a store's square footage - reducing the store size by nearly half meant Wal-Mart wouldn't, according to city planners' calculations, be taxing nearby streets quite as much.

Price said opponents' main concerns are still traffic and safety.

'… While we don't argue the popularity of these stores, this particular location is a terrible fit,' Price said. 'This is a densely residential area unsupported by freeway access that already sees its share of congestion.'

The city's approval did come with a list of conditions.

City planners may require Wal-Mart to install traffic-calming devices, depending on a 'post development' traffic study and will require the retailer to:

• install additional traffic signals at critical intersections.

• re-stripe lanes at significant intersections.

• construct medians and other devices to help with traffic.

• place 'no parking' signs.

• install curb returns to accommodate truck traffic.

• have shields on parking lights to mitigate impact on neighbors.

• install fencing or thorny bushes to protect access to Springwater Trail.

• take tree protection measures.

• implement recommendations from TriMet regarding bus stops and shelters.

Citizens and neighborhood associations that gave comments during the comment period (May 11-25) may appeal the decision before Tuesday, Aug. 8. A hearing's officer will hear appeals and groups can appeal the hearing's officer's decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

Gresham First has already promised its supporters, which number in the high thousands, that it will appeal any decision that allows a Wal-Mart supercenter at this particular Gresham site. For a full report on the city's decision, visit www.ci.gresham.or.us.