Wal-Mart hearing planned for next week

County Planning Commission takes a long look at superstore proposal

The Hood River County Planning Commission is expecting a large volume of pro and con testimony over Wal-Mart plans for a super center.

To accommodate crowds, the appointed body has scheduled back-to-back hearings on July 23 and 24. Both forums will be 7:30-11 p.m. in the auditorium at Hood River Valley High School.

“Whatever the length of presentation given by Wal-Mart, we’ve offered Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG), as the organized opponents, the same amount of time,” said Mike Benedict, county planning director.

He said the first evening will be dedicated primarily to reports from varied officials. He said the first presentations will be given by staff, Wal-Mart and CRG. Those comments, expected to take about 90 minutes, will be followed by remarks from the Oregon Department of Transportation and other involved local and state agencies. Once these speakers have been heard from, Benedict said the floor will be turned over to members of the public. He said each individual is expected to be given three minutes to air his/her view of the application.

Testimony will continue on the second evening as residents weigh in on Wal-Mart plans for a 185,000 square foot store. The retail giant is seeking to build on 16 acres of commercially-zoned property at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads.

Amy Hill, Wal-Mart spokesperson, believes the company has adequately addressed the key issue of “compatibility.” She said Wal-Mart has added landscaping and rustic building features to make the large-scale building barely visible from along Interstate 84 and the upper parking lot of the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Hill said although the applicant has sought to alleviate concerns about this issue, the proposed site is already zoned for retail use — and can’t be compared to neighboring residential properties of a much smaller size.

“While certain elements of this design have been used in other places, a lot of things have been pulled together to make Hood River a unique store,” Hill said.

CRG contends that Wal-Mart’s changes to the exterior of the structure have still not subtracted from its overall mass — much larger than any other retail enterprise in Hood River. In addition to arguing against its compatibility, the group believes construction of the new Wal-Mart and 12 acre parking lot will generate numerous problems. These include traffic snarls, flooding to adjacent properties from stormwater runoff, and harm to the riparian area around Phelps Creek, which runs through the property.

“We don’t feel they’ve satisfactorily addressed those issues,” said Kate Huseby, CRG spokesperson. Following next week’s hearings, the Commission could approve or deny Wal-Mart’s application.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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