Wal-Mart hearing set back until 2003

Company asks for time to address county’s concerns

The first hearing over Wal-Mart’s plans for a supercenter has been postponed until January of 2003.

On Monday, officials from the national chain store were granted a request by county officials for more time to address design concerns. The site plans for the proposed 185,000 square foot store were to have been given a first look tonight by the Hood River County Planning Commission.

Wal-Mart asked for a continuation of the hearing following the recommendation by county planners last week that the application be denied because it failed to meet six key areas of concern.

“We requested the delay to the hearing so that we could further address the county provisions and concerns,” said Amy Hill, Wal-Mart spokesperson.

Mike Benedict, county planning director, said the hearing will be rescheduled for early January, although no firm date has yet been chosen.

“This continuance is not unusual and would be expected of an applicant who receives notice their site plan is contested,” said Will Carey, county land-use counsel.

He said the 16-acre property at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads already allows for commercial development. Therefore, a retail store is an outright permitted use so the review of design standards is a much more “flexible” process than a proposal to change zoning — which puts the burden of proof on the applicant to show why the criteria should change on their behalf.

“We’re not talking about a change of use here, we’re talking about the physical characteristics of the development of the site,” said Carey. “Because this is more of an administrative process the applicant has every legal right to propose that they be able to take the plans back to the drawing table and meet those standards.”

He said because of the size of Wal-Mart’s proposed project, the site plan review is much more complicated and takes longer to process. However, he said the county factors public input about the site plans into its final decision about the application and will make sure local citizens are afforded ample opportunity for comment.

“The county wants to ensure that nobody is blindsided, that this process is open and fair and all members of the public who want to be heard on the applicable criteria will be heard,” Carey said.

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