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Cedar Mill residents float non-Wal-Mart development ideas

Opponents say they will focus on what they do want in their neighborhood

Wal-Mart decided last week that it would not appeal the city's Aug. 7 decision rejecting its Cedar Mill store.

Now what?

Cedar Mill residents are answering that question by floating dozens of ideas for the kind of development that should be put on the 9.28-acre site at the busy intersection of Southwest Cedar Hills Boulevard and Barnes Road.

'We've said what we don't want at that site, now we want to turn our attention to what we can do there,' said Steve Kaufman, head of Save Cedar Mill, the 4,000-member citizen group formed nearly two years ago to fight the Wal-Mart proposal.

'We are asking 'What can we do to make this really special for our community.' '

In just a few days, Cedar Mill residents have come up with more than five dozen ideas for the site. Most involve boutique shops and locally owned restaurants, Kaufman said. Others are partial to an open area where people can gather, he said.

'It sort of picks up some of the flavor of the Beaverton Round,' Kaufman said.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jennifer Holder said late last week that the Bentonville, Ark., retail giant would not appeal the Beaverton City Council's unanimous decision rejecting the proposed 152,308-square-foot Cedar Mill store.

The company had until this week to appeal the city's decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

Wal-Mart might look for a new site in or near Beaverton, said Holder. The company was eager to work with city officials to avoid a repeat of the contentious yearlong battle over the store, she said.

'Wal-Mart wants to be part of the Beaverton community as a partner,' Holder said.

'We feel that the legal and land-use arguments for an appeal in this case are strong. However, we want to work with the city. The City Council clearly has a different idea about how this particular site should be developed, and a long, protracted legal battle is not in anyone's best interests.'

Milwaukie developer PacLand proposed in March 2005 construction of the Wal-Mart on vacant land north of the Sunset Highway as part of the Town Square Too project.

The site is owned by J. Peterkort and Co., which is developing 250 acres in the area north of the Sunset Highway. Towne Square Too LLC planned the Wal-Mart development through a lease of the property.

The site was annexed into the city in February 2005. City planners tried to blend Washington County's transit-oriented retail/commercial zoning with comparable Beaverton zones for the property. The City Council's staff report on the project was about 8,000 pages long.

Within a few days the anti-Wal-Mart group, Save Cedar Mill, was formed. The group eventually hired an attorney, a land-use planner and a traffic engineer to battle the proposal.

On June 1, Beaverton's Board of Design Review approved the Town Square Too proposal with 76 conditions, including the requirement that Wal-Mart pay about $2 million to improve and widen the Cedar Hills Boulevard-Barnes Road intersection to eight lanes in all directions. It would have been one of the largest intersections in the state.

Save Cedar Mill appealed to the City Council, which held more than eight hours of hearings during two days in mid-July. The council voted 5 to 0 Aug. 7 to uphold the citizens' appeal, rejecting the store.

At the heart of their decision, city councilors said they were concerned about traffic problems in an area that will eventually be developed with hundreds of new homes and retail outlets. They also did not think the store fit the area's transit-oriented development zoning left from when the property was under Washington County's jurisdiction.

Holder said Friday that the store hoped to return to the city with a new plan for another site. She also thanked local business leaders, in particular the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, for their support of the store's plan.

'When we come back, we expect to be heard fairly and held to the same standards as all other land-use cases,' Holder said.

Kaufman said Save Cedar Mill would gather ideas for the site and present them to the Peterkort company. The community is looking for something that will help it maintain an identity, he said.

'We're trying to reach out to the landowner because any landowner should get a good return on their investment,' Kaufman said. 'But that investment can't come at the expense of the community.

'We're hoping the landowner will listen to us instead of putting up some big box store there.'