Wednesday, November 7, 2001
It is rare to see the number of citizens who showed up Monday for the Hood River County Board of Commissioners' discussion of Wal-Mart's application to build a "super-store" just outside Hood River city limits.
With a refined ear, the commissioners should listen to the people.
Wetlands mitigation, and possibly traffic impacts, are the main hurdles for Wal-Mart to pass in its efforts to move out of its current location and build a 185,000-square-foot store accompanied by 12 acres of parking.
Some citizens are supportive of Wal-Mart's plan, arguing that in a free market economy any business has the right to expand as it sees fit. As far as zoning of the property is concerned, Wal-Mart has a legitimate proposal.
Wal-Mart certainly does not lack for customers. Consider a twist on the old "if you build it, (they) will come" saying: People already come to Wal-Mart, so no wonder the company wants to build a bigger store.
So it could well be that from a procedural or legal standpoint, elected officials can do little but accept the project and insist that it conform to design standards.
Evidently Wal-Mart wants a bigger store, but the question still needs to be asked loud and clear: does this community need it?
Bigger is not always better.
In the very least, the commissioners should hear the message that people want an effective ordinance, barring future proposals of such massive scale, similar to the city's law limiting building sizes to 50,000 square feet.
The county must also consider the larger effects of such a proposal on the community of Hood River. When a crowd of people fills the chambers and hallway out of concern for the massive impact on a community by one massive store, the commissioners should turn to what is known as "base line" information: in this case, the base line is that people care deeply about the harmful effects of a "superstore."
In light of this, the commissioners should examine every angle. This means giving exacting scrutiny to the proposal by Wal-Mart.
He's a big boy. He can take it.