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Superstore goes ‘rustic’

Wal-Mart designers add ‘brick tint’ to final plans for new store

Wal-Mart is ready to begin the public review process of its “rustic” plans for a supercenter at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads.

On Friday, the national company turned new architectural drawings over to the Hood River County Planning Department. In those renderings, Wal-Mart seeks to show that the “mass” of the 185,000-square-foot store can blend well with the surrounding landscape. The retail giant has submitted paint samples of tan, rust, light brown and green. In addition, the metal roofing is also proposed to be a brick tint and the upper facade of both entrances will have wooden gables and a shingled-look.

“With effective landscaping, screening and muted earth tone colors, the building can be a discreet presence in this viewscape,” wrote Architects BCRA Tsang in a written narrative that accompanied the design work.

In an attempt to prove that statement, the Tacoma, Wash., firm hired by Wal-Mart to draft the plans provided “before and after” views of the proposed store. Architects took photographs of the existing 16 acre parcel and then superimposed a computer image of the new store onto the scene. In those pictures, which both portray new plantings and mature vegetation growth, the proposed Wal-Mart is barely visible from the upper parking lot of the Columbia Gorge Hotel and along Interstate 84.

Although the architectural firm has worked to address the central argument over “compatibility,” they are also reminding county officials that the proposed site is already zoned for a commercial use — and can’t be compared to neighboring residential properties of a much smaller size.

Mike Benedict, county planning director, said his staff will spend the next month evaluating the new plans. Last fall, Benedict recommended that Wal-Mart’s building application be denied because it failed to meet six key criteria.

These issues included not only the scale of the structure, but traffic flows, protection of riparian areas and potential flooding from paved areas. Benedict said it is too early to determine whether these problems have been adequately addressed.

Once planners have completed their scrutiny, Benedict said a recommendation for approval or denial of the updated plans will be crafted and presented to the County Planning Commission on June 25.

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