Verdict expected tonight on Wal-Mart plans

Planning Commission begins final deliberations on proposed superstore

After almost a two year wait, a verdict may finally be handed down tonight on Wal-Mart plans for a super center.

The Hood River Planning Commission begins deliberating over the controversial application at 7:30 p.m. in the county courthouse. Eric Walker, senior planner for the county, said the appointed body is expected to render a decision that — no matter which way it goes — will likely be appealed to the Board of Commissioners.

At issue is Wal-Mart’s proposal to build a 186,000 square foot store on commercially zoned property at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads. Four hearings have been held since August to discuss issues related to development of the 16-acre parcel, including floodplain protection, traffic flows, and compatibility of the structure with the surrounding landscape.

In early October, the commission was told that the county could face legal challenges — no matter what direction it took on the plans. Greg Hathaway, attorney for the applicant, said that Wal-Mart officials believed all of the site plan criteria had been met in a “legally defensible” manner. Conversely, the Citizens for Responsible Growth, the opposition group, said the county could be liable for any flooding by the retail giant’s grading and excavation of the property.

At tonight’s hearing, the commission will also consider a request by Stu Watson and Kate Huseby, CRG co-chairs, for “standing” in the case. The two residents, who live near the proposed site, are seeking the right of appeal by claiming that Wal-Mart’s new store would adversely affect their quality of life because of increased lighting and traffic. They also argue that the larger store injures the mission of the CRG to promote the growth of smaller businesses that complement a rural lifestyle.

In December of 2001 Wal-Mart submitted its preliminary application to replace the existing 72,000 square foot building on West Cascade Avenue. Those plans were tendered just three hours before the Hood River County Commission was slated to take action on an emergency zoning ordinance centered on economics that would have blocked any “big box” construction. Several weeks earlier the City of Hood River had requested that the county adopt its ordinance banning single commercial structures of more than 50,000 square feet.

Once Wal-Mart had “grandfathered” in its right to request the super center, county planners began reviewing the site plans and sent the company’s architects and engineers back to do multiple redesigns. Debate over compatibility and floodplain storage became the two outstanding issues that raised pro and con arguments during hearings this summer and fall.

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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