Wal-Mart hearing set for July

Written, oral comments accepted through July 9 on proposed Supercenter

Wal-Mart plans for a Supercenter will be given a hard look by the Hood River County Planning Commission in late July.

The final application was deemed complete by planners last Friday, which set the clock ticking on the 120-day review period.

Both oral and written comments are now being accepted by Mike Benedict, county planning director, for inclusion in the formal record. That documentation will be presented to the seven-member quasi-judicial body on Wednesday, July 31, at 6:30 p.m. in the County Courthouse.

“The comments that we have received to date are already part of the written record and, therefore, people don’t need to resubmit them,” said Eric Walker, senior planner.

He said some citizens erroneously believe that verbal testimony carries more weight than written remarks when all submissions are given equal consideration.

“Because of the exceptional interest in this application we encourage people to give us their written comments prior to the scheduled hearing date,” Walker said.

He said oral and written statements received by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9 will be incorporated into the staff report prior to the hearing. In the past six months, Walker said the county has received more than 200 e-mails and direct mail comments, correspondence that is in addition to December submission of a 1,056 signature petition against the development and another petition with 2,000 names in favor.

At the July hearing, both pro and con arguments will be heard and 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, Walker said the hearing will likely be continued at the same time and location on Aug. 7.

Copies of Wal-Mart’s application are available for review in the planning department at no cost or may be purchased for 25 cents per page. A copy of the staff report will be available for inspection or purchase at least seven days prior to the first hearing.

The controversial application was first submitted by Wal-Mart in December. The proposal is for a 185,000 square foot Supercenter on 16 acres at the junction of Frankton and Country Club Roads. In mid-January the county outlined 57 areas of concern that required more in-depth information, primarily about traffic, infrastructure and wetland protection.

The updated plans were returned on May 30 and include 788 parking paces with numerous tree wells and other plantings throughout the lot and the west-facing store front remains as originally shown with columns, canopies and a breezeway to break up the 550-foot face. Changes made since December include:

Revamping the north-facing entrance to make it more attractive from the freeway and County Club Road access.

Placing fish passage culverts under both Frankton and Country Club Roads for flows from Phelps Creek, which Wal-Mart proposes to re-route back into its original channel.

About one-half of an acre has been added to landscaping plans that restore the riparian area around Phelps Creek.

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