It is a shame that the Wal-Mart issue has degenerated to a personal vendetta between a few individuals.
Every week I am sorry to see that it is only Alyson Huntting defending Gresham's quality of life, and that the letters from Matthew Vantress have become increasingly emotional in tone. Ms. Huntting is not alone at all - there are hundreds of us who have been fighting since the initial Jan. 27, 2005, Wal-Mart community meeting to keep Wal-Mart from building at the Powell Boulevard and 182nd Avenue site. The citizens of Gresham, and particularly neighbors living nearby, have done what any reasonable people would do. We have banded together to protect our neighborhood from increased traffic, noise, crime and decreased property values. This issue has breathed new life into our neighborhood associations and gave birth to a grassroots, smart growth development group that has served as a model for other local groups across the nation. In June 2005, 6,290 Gresham citizens signed a petition circulated by GreshamFirst, and a record-breaking 1,181 individuals wrote comments to the city to protest the application.
Since the Wal-Mart supercenter proposal was denied by the city of Gresham, the company has persisted with a scaled back proposal and resubmitted its application. The new 'small' supercenter would still be approximately the size of the Wood Village Fred Meyer, which is on a much larger parcel of land, near a freeway, separated from residential areas and not adjacent to the Springwater Trail or an environmentally sensitive waterway. Wal-Mart claims that a smaller store would generate less traffic, but the details are less than reassuring. The traffic estimate for the original full-sized Wal-Mart supercenter was an additional 7,000 cars on the road per day. Now the estimates range anywhere from 3,500-6,800 cars per day. Remember the valuable demonstration we got this past summer when Powell Boulevard was under construction for months on end and we had to devise creative ways to get where we were going and allow additional travel time? And in the end, we have a more attractive and pedestrian-friendly Powell Boulevard, but with actually reduced traffic capacity. How could the city say that adding another at least 3,500 cars will not overload it?
Although Wal-Mart is the largest retailer worldwide, our community has defended itself admirably. Our fight against Wal-Mart has brought us together, and we will strive to continue guiding our city towards reasonable and sustainable growth. Let's not let the Wal-Mart cheerleaders tell us that we should just shut up and deal with the high costs of Wal-Mart's low prices. It has been a long fight, but now it's time to rally again. I hope you will take the opportunity to attend the public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the City Council Chambers, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway, and let your voice be heard.
Sally Macklin is a Gresham resident.