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Wal-Mart battle far from over

Gresham's fight to keep Wal-Mart from building at an unsuitable location didn't end last week with a decision from the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

The world's largest retailer still has to prove its case to a hearings officer who has ruled against Wal-Mart twice before. Gresham Hearings Officer Joe Turner's previous decisions were based on evidence that traffic from a proposed Wal-Mart superstore near Powell Boulevard and 182nd Avenue would overload the street system.

Last Thursday, LUBA sent the Wal-Mart case back to Gresham. The appeals board did not say that Wal-Mart could proceed, but instead ordered Turner to reconsider one traffic issue having to do with his interpretation of Wal-Mart's travel-time analysis. It's possible that the issue could affect Turner's overall decision, but that is far from definite.

Following the LUBA decision, Turner has several options. He can reopen the case for further testimony on the particular traffic issue in question. Or, he could rule for or against Wal-Mart, based on existing testimony, but provide a more thorough explanation to LUBA.

No matter how Turner rules when the case comes back, his decision will once again be subject to appeal. And it's even possible that the LUBA decision last week could be appealed by Wal-Mart's opponents within a 21-day period.

What all this means is that the Wal-Mart controversy will be with us for several more weeks, if not months. LUBA's ruling was not a clear-cut victory for Wal-Mart - it was more like a request for additional information and justification.

And it's entirely possible that the retailing giant will be denied once again for the simple reason that a superstore at that location would generate more traffic than the streets can handle.