Wal-Mart plan falls short

County identifies six site problems

Hood River County planners have ruled that Wal-Mart’s plans for a supercenter have failed to meet six key design elements.

Mike Benedict, planning director, will recommend the existing site plan be denied during the review of the Hood River Planning Commission at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the county courthouse.

“We’re not saying they can’t have a store, what we are saying is that the design and function of the development does not currently conform to the applicable requirements,” Benedict said.

As of press time on Friday, Wal-Mart officials had not returned calls by the Hood River News for comment about Benedict’s recommendation.

In the 80-page staff report developed by Benedict and Eric Walker, senior planner, the following problems were outlined on the proposal for a 185,000-square foot retail outlet the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads:

* Potential loss of habitat if Phelps Creek is relocated and no longer has mature riparian vegetation along its banks.

* The possibility that placement of 60,000 yards of fill materials could bring flooding problems to neighboring properties.

* Insufficient traffic information to ensure the added travel to and from the store would not create safety problems and vehicle congestion.

* Height, bulk and scale of the visible portions of the new Wal-Mart would dominate the surrounding landscape.

* Failure to meet aesthetic standards by making the north side of the building, facing Country Club Road, look like a main entrance and placing parking spaces to the side and rear of the building.

* Inadequate data to ensure that on-site development would not bring flooding to adjacent lands, particularly those located downstream.

Walker said the planning department has received 400 written and oral comments to date from community members, business leaders and agency representatives. That number does not include the 1,056 signature petition against the development that was submitted last December and another petition with 2,000 names in favor. Both opponents and supporters have currently launched another petition drive, although a count on those signatures is not yet unavailable.

Benedict said both verbal and written testimony will be given the same consideration at Wednesday’s hearing. He said speakers will be given a maximum of three minutes for a presentation. If there is not enough time for the Commissioners to listen to all verbal remarks, Benedict said the hearing will likely be continued to a second hearing.

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