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Traffic engineer adds history to Wal-Mart plan

City Council's vote Monday could be tied to longtime development plan for region

When Beaverton's City Council votes Monday night on the proposed Cedar Mill Wal-Mart, Don Odermott is betting that history will get the victory.

Odermott is the traffic engineer who for the past 13 years has guided planning for most of the 280 acres owned by the Peterkort family north of the Sunset Highway.

He was there with his traffic calculations in hand long before PacLand came up with its idea for Town Square Too and the proposed 152,308-square-foot Wal-Mart at the intersection of Cedar Hills Boulevard and Barnes Road.

As far as Odermott is concerned, the Town Square Too project fits in with plans made nearly 16 years ago for the area. It's too bad that traffic has become a big issue, he said, but the Wal-Mart project is very similar to what Washington County planners had in mind when they agreed to the Peterkorts' development plan years ago, he said.

'I don't see anything that's inconsistent with our traffic projections and the development plans that have been made for that site,' Odermott said.

City councilors will decide Monday night whether to uphold an appeal of a June 1 Board of Design Review vote to allow construction of the Wal-Mart store and two adjacent retail and commercial buildings on about nine acres at the busy Cedar Mill intersection.

Design board members imposed 76 conditions on the project, including a requirement that developer PacLand of Milwaukie pay to widen the Cedar Hills Boulevard/Barnes Road intersection to nearly eight lanes, with two pedestrian islands near double right-turn lanes and bicycle lanes along the sides.

It could be one of the widest intersections in the state. Pedestrians would have around 20 seconds to scamper more than 80 feet from one side of the road to the other.

Members of the anti-Wal-Mart citizens group Save Cedar Mill appealed the Board of Design Review decision to the City Council. The group has worked for nearly 18 months to block the store, claiming it would hurt the region's economy and lead to massive traffic headaches.

A traffic mitigation plan reported that the site would generate about 7,400 vehicle trips each day, or 3,700 trips to and from the Wal-Mart site.

PacLand's architects and traffic engineers said the project's impacts were within accepted development plans for the region and nearly matched those proposed in the 1999 Peterkort master plan adopted by Washington County.

'History is important'

Beaverton annexed the commercial site in February 2005, but retained the county's zoning and much of its development requirements, using city development codes when the two requirements overlapped.

Odermott agreed with PacLand's assessment, telling both the Board of Design Review in May and the City Council in mid-July that the proposed project was 'dead-on' in its assumptions about traffic and the need for improvements at the Cedar Hills Boulevard/Barnes Road intersection.

'I believe that based on the fact that it's an allowed use and the traffic impacts are consistent with what was planned there years ago, this should be approved,' he said.

Odermott operates the Transportation Consulting Group in Banks. He has worked on Peterkort development projects since the beginning. He hopes to lend a bit of history to the issue.

'History is important,' Odermott said. 'That's what I thought was missing as I sat in the Board of Design Review hearings. The history of all this needed to be brought out.'

Planning for development on the Peterkorts' property began more than a decade ago, with county planners pushing for higher density in some areas, Odermott said. In 1997, the Peterkorts were required to develop at a higher density for some developments, which is what could be driving much of the Wal-Mart opposition today, he said.

'Yeah, the proposed Wal-Mart is consistent with planning and consistent with the traffic impacts, but it's still difficult for the neighborhoods,' Odermott said.