I just saw a KQED public television special on a small town in Virginia (Ashland) that finally lost its battle against a Wal-Mart store. The details were hauntingly similar to our situation in Hood River. After much public debate and grassroots activism, only one "no" vote was cast from the five-person town council, giving Wal-Mart the green light to build. Their corporate plan is to do whatever is necessary with the local planning and building departments to satisfy all the zoning regulations. When these regulations are satisfied, they get the approval to build. Their corporate planners and lawyers revel at the challenge -- play the game right, and you win.
It saddens me, the power that this corporate money commands. The challenge is truly awesome to myself (and others) who would rather not see another Wal-Mart store in Hood River. My (our) economic choice not to shop at Wal-Mart is a given. Writing the corporate office explaining why I refuse to patronize is also a given. Again, that address is: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Attn: Customer Service, 702 SW 8th Street, Bentonville, AR 72716.
I wish there was a secret weapon we could use, you know, like wetlands mitigation, or traffic congestion, or degradation of the natural and cultural history of the area. If only the commission would have voted to follow city planning regulations regarding big boxes. Guess what Wal-Mart's parting prognostication was on that KQED television special: By the year 2004, Wal-Mart plans to open a new store every business day of the year. Yipes!