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Wal-Mart decision coming in August

City Council weighs hours of testimony from both sides of the controversial issue
by: Jonathan House, Portland attorney Greg Hathaway, representing Wal-Mart, sits with PacLand staff during Monday night's City Council hearing. The city will make a decision in early August on an appeal of the Wal-Mart plan approval.

Beaverton's City Council will decide the fate of the controversial Cedar Mill Wal-Mart store at its Aug. 7 meeting.

In the meantime, city officials will consider more than 10 hours of testimony from dozens of people presented during two nights of hearings.

Only a handful of people who participated in hearings Monday and Tuesday supported plans to construct a 152,308-square-foot Wal-Mart store on nine acres at the busy intersection of Southwest Cedar Hills Boulevard and Barnes Road.

Most of the people who spoke to the council opposed the project.

City councilors heard the testimony in response to an appeal by the citizens group Save Cedar Mill, which opposes the Wal-Mart project.

Save Cedar Mill appealed a June 1 Board of Design Review decision that approved a plan by Milwaukie developer PacLand to build the Wal-Mart as part of the Town Square Too project.

The bulk of the concerns raised Tuesday night centered around traffic congestion, pedestrian and bicycle safety, livability and the neighborhood compatibility of a big box store at the already jammed intersection.

While supporters like Beaverton resident Mike Fisher felt traffic concerns were 'adequately addressed' by developer PacLand of Milwaukie, Cedar Mill neighbors argued that expanding the intersection to eight lanes would create an even greater traffic nightmare and violate transit-oriented zoning requirements.

'The scale of the proposed intersection and increased traffic will compromise safety for pedestrians, cyclists, children and pets in the entire neighborhood, not just for the intersection itself,' said Chet Lee, a Cedar Hills homeowner and avid cyclist.

The proposed eight-lane intersection, which could be the largest in the state, is certain to cause more bottlenecks, cut-through traffic, accidents and long delays in the area, Lee and others said.

Jim Johnson, a 34-year Cedar Hills resident, agreed and called the intersection a gateway to Cedar Mill and the intersection's capacity a 'resource to be carefully allocated.'

With the high-density growth planned for the area north of the Sunset Highway, the intersection is already overburdened with existing local traffic, he said.

Instead of a store the size of Wal-Mart, Johnson said he would support development of a 'series of stores that will support the local area, its walkers and bikers and traffic.'

'Don't allocate the remaining traffic capacity for a project that mainly benefits a corporation and citizens who do not live in the area,' Johnson told the council.

'We do not need a regional store drawing more cars to the area,' added Jan Johnson.

Local character

While Leonard Oppenheimer of Beaverton and Melissa Starr of Tigard said they would welcome a nearby Wal-Mart store, Hilary Hutchinson said the store would not be a welcome Cedar Mill neighbor.

'We have nothing to gain and everything to lose,' Hutchinson said.

Nancy Hollander, a longtime Cedar Mill resident, said building a Wal-Mart on the Town Square Too property would 'destroy the local character of the immediately surrounding area.'

Several neighbors who testified asked the council to look beyond zoning standards to the future needs of the growing area.

Lee urged the council to consider its goals and vision for development within the city.

'How should the city look in 20 years?' he asked. 'You have the opportunity to guide growth in alignment of that vision.

'We do not have to grow at all costs. Taking the more difficult path to structured, limited growth does not come at the price of success for the businesspeople or residents of the community.'

Progressive plan

Instead of basing its decision on minimum standards, Lee told the council it had the ability to 'set a higher bar' and create 'a progressive, forward-thinking plan' for the community.

Others asked the council to act on behalf of the members of the community that will be directly affected by development of the site.

'We want a voice in how our community is developed,' said Christy Middleton, a 35-year Terra Linda resident.

Peterkort resident Margy Imlay said, 'This proposal goes directly against the city's mission to preserve and enhance Beaverton as a responsive, dynamic, attractive and safe community.'

As things stand, unincorporated Washington County residents in the area say they feel powerless in the city's development approval process.

Mollie Peters is one of them.

'The people on the ground are not happy,' Peters said. 'Solutions have been found for all parties except the public.'

Tom Pavlik summed up his concerns in one statement.

'It feels like I'm losing my neighborhood,' Pavlik said.