City upholds citizens' appeal; company attorneys consider next step

Beaverton's City Council Monday night unanimously rejected plans to build a new Wal-Mart store in Cedar Mill.

Councilors voted 5 to 0 to uphold an appeal by opponents of the 152,308-square-foot Wal-Mart that would be been constructed on about nine acres at the busy intersection of Southwest Cedar Hills Boulevard and Barnes Road.

The council's decision means developers of the Wal-Mart site would have to get a favorable ruling from the state Land Use Board of Appeals to build the store.

Councilors voted at about 7:25 p.m. in favor of the appeal by the anti-Wal-Mart citizens group Save Cedar Mill of a June 1 city Board of Design Review decision that approved the project.

Wal-Mart representatives were disappointed in the city's decision and said the Bentonville, Ark., retail giant would take a careful look at an appeal to the state land-use agency.

'We are disappointed that after two years of work with a number of unbiased agencies, a vote of support from the Board of Design Review and full support of city staff has been set aside for what appears to be a politically motivated decision,' said Jennifer Holder, senior manager of public affairs for Wal-Mart's West region, which includes Oregon and Washington.

She believes the council ruled the way it did because the applicant is Wal-Mart.

'This is not supposed to be a popularity contest,' Holder added. 'It's about the zoning and right to develop the property as planned.'

She said Wal-Mart and its legal team would take a careful look at the city's final decision next Monday and decide what they would do next. Wal-Mart has 21 days after the order is signed to decide whether it will appeal the decision.

'We didn't hear any legal basis for the council's decision to overturn the Board of Design Review's decision and support of city staff,' Holder said.

What does this site mean to Wal-Mart?

'It's something that our customers have asked for in the community for over three years,' Holder said. 'Building this store is an opportunity for us to come in and serve them and become part of this community. If it wasn't important, we wouldn't have spent two years in this process working and revising our plan to gain the support of the Board of Design Review and staff.'

Save Cedar Mill members were 'overwhelmed' by the city's decision.

Steve Kaufman, president of Save Cedar Mill, praised the council and said he was surprised by the unanimous vote.

'In my wildest dreams I didn't think it would be like this,' Kaufman said.

'The whole community of Cedar Mill reached out and made their voices heard and the city listened.'

In the end, nearly every city councilor said the decision came down to the issue of pedestrian and transit accessibility of the site. Because the site was zoned by Washington County for transit-oriented development before the city annexed it in February 2005, that zoning was the key to the council's vote.

It also was an issue of 'livability' for many of the councilors.

'This big-box use in this spot is not workable,' said Councilor Dennis Doyle.

'To me it's like putting a linebacker in an evening gown for a beauty pageant,' said Councilor Catherine Arnold. 'It doesn't work.'

Mayor Rob Drake, who was not required to vote on the issue, said the council's primary concern that the area be developed with pedestrian- and transit-friendly projects was paramount to the decision.

Even though most of Cedar Mill is outside city limits, Drake said the city's decision could affect the quality of life for hundreds of residents who will move in once the area is developed.

'I really don't think this is about Wal-Mart,' Drake said. 'This is the wrong store for this location.

'It's not about Wal-Mart, it's about impacts.'

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