Walmart groceries?

Retailer looks to expand HR store

Walmart Stores Inc. wants to sell groceries in Hood River.

The Arkansas-based company has filed a document known as a pre-application for the proposed expansion of its West Cascade Store to allow for up to 30,000 additional square feet, to sell groceries.

The city will meet with Walmart representatives Jan. 18 in a staff-level pre-application meeting to review substantive issues such as building design, traffic, storm water and fire protection, according to City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge.

Walmart is applying for a "vested right" to do the work, arguing in the preliminary document that the expansion is entitled under the original 1991 land use permit that led to the existing store.

Walmart's attorney will prepare a fully vested application after pre-application process, according to Walbridge.

Also following pre-application, Walmart intends to request a Site Plan Review permit for exterior upgrades and alternations, according to the application, filed by Pacland, a Portland planning firm.

City Attorney Dan Kerands will review the pre-application and advise the planning staff.

Also, the city has decided to hire a traffic engineer to study the submittal.

"We're getting ready for what we're going to tell them," Walbridge said.

While most design features are yet unknown, the proposed expansion would involve façade changes and a new vehicle entry, which would be amendments to the 1991 permit.

Two traffic changes would take effect:

Walmart's main vehicle access would be off Cascade Avenue at the existing west entrance.

A traffic light would be installed at Rand and Cascade, the other existing Walmart access point.

Further, under a restriction stipulated by Oregon Department of Transportation known as "right only, right only," cars would be able to make right-turns only from Rand onto West Cascade and from Rand onto Wasco. The only access to Walmart would be at the western entrance off Cascade.

Vehicles entering Wasco from Cascade could not turn down the existing ramp that runs parallel to Cascade, fronting Walmart. A physical barrier would be placed at the intersection to disallow left turns into Walmart at that location, but west-east truck traffic from West Cascade onto Wasco and back would be ensured, to serve industrial customers.

Approval as a vested right would require a separate application, which Walbridge said she expects to be filed after the pre-application meeting.

Walbridge said Rand-Cascade was the one intersection identified in recent traffic studies as most needing signalization.

The city recently received ODOT's approval to move forward with the signal, with requirements including "the right-only, right only" requirements.

Walbridge, who was planner when the Walmart plans were approved in 1991, said she remembers the 30,000-foot expansion clause in the original site plan, and that it was discussed in the application.

Asked if the Rand-Cascade signal was connected to the Walmart proposal, Walbridge said, "No, but there is a connection now; but it was moving along separately before Walmart made its pre-application."

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