Tuesday, August 26, 2003/lk
By MARTY OPPENHEIMER
Special to the News
Wal-Mart should be able to develop suitably zoned property if they want to and they meet the criteria. They’re willing to pay for improving the currently dangerous traffic intersection at Cascade and Country Club roads (which we cannot currently afford to fix). They’re willing to relocate Phelps Creek to its original location, and to craft a more esthetically pleasing design than our current store.
If Wal-Mart isn’t allowed to develop, it may be discriminatory. Our City can barely pay its current bills. Should we bow to special interest groups here to bankrupt us in a court battle?
A vocal special interest group should not control who can and who can’t do business here. Some of the “no” people are marginally successful small downtown storeowners. Other “no” folks largely don’t shop locally anyway and would rather travel out of town to shop. Many of the “no” sector are folks who came here from out of town and want to close the door to others and any new development.
The downtown merchants have for decades complained about “trade leakage” to other cities; yet try shopping downtown without paying to park. Try finding a parking space at all. Try finding ordinary household items at competitive prices, rather than pricey recreation and tourist oriented things. Indeed, try shopping at all after 6 p.m. downtown. Try being elderly, on a limited income, or not having transportation to shop in cities having a broad range of affordable household and personal merchandise. Not everyone can afford to just hop into their SUV towards Home Depot or Costco in Portland.
Whoever says the new Superstore would be an eyesore to the area has not walked by the blighted trailer park on Country Club Road or had the courage to actually walk in it. Our “no” faction must not have traveled past the dilapidated proposed Wal-Mart properties. Having the new Wal-Mart would actually enhance that area, esthetically. The new expanded store would be farther from the freeway and nicer looking, even considering it includes a broad expanse of free parking.
We’d do well to support new clean growth and improve our shopping choices, rather than restricting choices. We’d be better off to promote shopping access and retail competition. Small downtown merchants can survive and prosper, if they truly offer products and service that serve our small town well. Shame on the professional “no” people for their campaign to tell us where we can shop, and shame on us if we listen.
Marty Oppenheimer of Hood River is an artist and ex-realtor.