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Wal-Mart: creating a westside gorilla?

By JUDY HANEL

Special to the News

I can certainly appreciate comments in the Hood River News about selection and convenience at the current Wal-Mart store. I have nothing against the current store in its location; it fills a need in this community.

But I am sickened at the thought of the proposed 187,000 square-foot supercenter at our front door. In the County’s Comprehensive Plan, it states, “The height, bulk, and scale of buildings shall be compatible with the site and buildings in the surrounding area.” If built, it would be incompatible with its surroundings. The largest building in Hood River is the current Wal-Mart at 72,000 square feet, followed by the Rosauers complex at 71,000. (See graph below.)

Safeway, the Waucoma Center, Gorge Discovery Center, and Skamania Lodge (convention center, restaurant and lounge) are all between 48,000-50,000 square feet. Wal-Mart proposes a structure that is two and one-half times larger than its existing store, 17 times bigger than any commercial building that could ever be built in the vicinity. The proposed building is incompatible with our community, but let’s also consider the traffic impacts.

Not only will the traffic be congested on Frankton, Country Club, and Cascade Avenue but also on May Street and Rand Road as people try to snake their way downtown because of the projected 15,000 new car trips that a supercenter would bring. Imagine if you live on the Westside — no doubt you have always driven to town down Country Club or Frankton, but if the supercenter were built, you would probably try Rand Road, then try 13th or as far as 7th Street to avoid the traffic.

One last thought — a friend just got back from Omaha and at their Wal-Mart supercenter there flew a 35-foot blown-up gorilla in the parking lot. Welcome to Hood River!

*****

Judie Hanel lives in Hood River.

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