November 15th the Warrenton Planning Commission intends to make a decision regarding the land use application for a proposed Walmart Superstore for the North Coast Business Park. Thursday night was the first time the developer publicly acknowledged that the application is for Walmart. CLICK HERE FOR HIGHLIGHTS AUDIO
Speculation regarding the possible siting of a Walmart somewhere in Warrenton has been floating around for the last six years and it was five years ago that the City made a key change to the designation of a wetland area in the north-coast business park. The planning commission changed the designation from "significant" to "insignificant" which opened the door to building Walmart on that spot.
The new superstore design came into question at the public hearing when planning commissioners commented that with the back of the proposed store facing Highway 101 (just as home depot's store does on the other side of the Highway), and a proposed concrete wall along the highway to screen loading operations at the rear of the store the design resembles a prison from the driver's perspective. Planning Commission Chair Paul Mitchell called for the design team to go back to the drawing board and come back with something more attractive that would truly represent the North Coast. He mentioned other Walmarts he has seen where details like heavy exposed beam construction made the stores look far lless like a typical big box and would be more in line with what Warrenton is looking for. "We want people to be talking about this when they visit Warrenton" He said " Warrenton is not just a place people drive through to get someplace else. Warrenton is a destination"
Warrenton business owner Krista Bingham told the commission that it is unfair to exsisting businesses to have waited for years before confirming that a Walmart is coming. She said local small business owners need time to find a strategy to compete with the giant discounter.
The majority of the public comment was negative coming from an organized group of local citizens who object to Walmart's operational policies, the treatment of Walmart's employees, and the company's poor reputation in communities where they are located.
Greg Hathaway, the attorney representing the developer said that even though those comment have no bearing on the application before the commission that he would respond because, he said, many of the points brought up by those opposed to the project are simply not true statements about Walmart. He said that the applicant agrees with all the conditions of approval and that if the Planning Commission were to approve the application it would be legally defensible because city staff has been very detailed in reviewing the application and found in favor of the applicant with conditions.
The public record remains open for comment regarding the application until 5:30pm November 1st and the Planning Commission plans to make a final decision on November 15th.