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Sherwood ponders limits to Walmart

City looks at rules about store hours, overnight parking

by: TIMES PHOTO: RAY PITZ - Sherwood residents opposed to a new Walmart store have asked the city to consider several new ordinances that could keep the retail giant from breaking ground.Restricting hours of operation, banning overnight parking and regulating employment conditions were among the issues the Sherwood City Council discussed as part of possible ordinances to get a handle on what the city’s future retail ventures will look like.

The council met during a work session Monday evening to look at suggestions that would place restrictions on certain operations for stores and commercial operations.

The work session was part of requests by some Sherwood residents who want to prevent Walmart from building a new 145,000-square-foot store in the city.

One of the proposals would limit business hours of retail operations for stores larger than 100,000 square feet that employ more than 100 people.

Christopher Crean, the city’s attorney, said the council could decide to restrict hours of operation similar to a Beaverton code, where businesses must be closed from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. unless they’ve acquired a conditional-use permit.

Mayor Bill Middleton said he’d be in favor of limiting store hours as long as those stores are allowed to stock items at night.

Councilor Dave Grant questioned the purpose of the entire ordinance discussion.

“If the rationale basis is to punish Walmart or to make (Sherwood) unpalatable, that’s of no interest to me,” said Grant. “I don’t understand what we’re trying to accomplish here except to take a potshot at Walmart.”

Others disagreed.

Councilor Krisanna Clark said she was interested in knowing what challenge new businesses pose when it comes to public safety issues.

Councilor Matt Langer, whose family owns the property where Walmart will locate, pointed out that three businesses are currently open all night - Subway, 7-Eleven and Shari’s Restaurant.

“Are those hotbeds for crime in our town?” Langer asked.

Councilor Linda Henderson said one of her concerns would be restricting hours during holiday sales such as Black Friday, when many retailers open during the early-morning hours. Henderson said she didn’t want to enact legislation that would give one retailer an advantage over another.

City staff said the city could address specific issues through either granting conditional-use permits or temporary-use permits.

Meanwhile, Langer said he’s concerned Sherwood is changing its business model based on whims.

“Well, that’s your perception for obvious reasons,” replied Clark. “You’re thinking of it as reactionary, and I’m thinking of it as defining our community.”

During a Tuesday Sherwood City Council meeting, Clark apologized to Langer for her comments.

City Manager Joe Gall said the council should be careful in giving one retailer an advantage over another, pointing out that if the goal was to pass ordinances focusing on stores with more than 100,000 square feet, Kohl’s wouldn’t fit that criteria.

While Middleton said he would be in favor of drawing up some type of ordinance for future approval involving large retailers, several council members said they wanted more information.

The council also discussed the possibility of regulating overnight parking in retail parking lots. Many Walmarts allow overnight parking for recreational vehicles with a manager’s approval.

Crean said Beaverton bans RV parking for more than 30 minutes from midnight until 5 a.m. The city of Hermiston too bans parking overnight for RVs, limiting parking to not more than three hours in the same location each day.

Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth said he didn’t want to put his officers in the business of marking tires constantly to see who was violating an ordinance on overnight parking.

Two proposals that didn’t move on for further examination were putting restrictions on alcohol and firearms sales. Mayor Middleton said he didn’t think they would pass legal muster with current laws already in place.

The council also discussed regulating employment conditions such as giving part-time employees a shot at getting more hours before additional employees are hired, giving benefits to part-time employees and notifying employees two weeks in advance of their work schedules.

Heather Martin, also from the city attorney’s office, said the city could look at some of those issues but was worried about how the city would enforce such requirements.

Councilor Robyn Folsom said she was concerned about legislating businesses and creating business impediments. Folsom said she believed many of the employment conditions were “way outside our scope.”

Councilor Bill Butterfield, who owns his own electrical business, was blunter.

“I certainly don’t want government to come in and tell me what I can and can’t do,” he said. However, he was interested in finding out exactly what some of Walmart’s business practices are.

Middleton said after talking with Walmart officials, it was clear they had health plans for part-time employees.

Grant also pointed out that Walmart was not underpaying employees compared to other retailers and had concerns about spending too much staff time on issues related to Walmart. “I just can’t see us chasing these things,” said Grant. “We don’t have the staff.”

The council asked staff and the city attorney to come back with a draft of several ordinances discussed along with getting further data on the business practices of Sherwood’s other large retailers, with a deadline set for the middle of July.

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