Walmart seeks Gorge expansion

| Print |  Email
Thursday, June 20, 2013

BY MATT WERBACH | HOOD RIVER CORRESPONDENT

06.20.13 WalmartWalmart aims to expand its footprint in the Columbia Gorge, where small-town main street businesses and restrictive land use planning have ruled for decades.

Following earlier attempts in the past two years, the Big Box company is trying once again to gain approval for the expansion of their current Hood River store on Wasco Avenue to allow enough space for a full grocery. The company was denied the permits to expand but is now appealing the decision.

In The Dalles, Walmart will likely be allowed to build a superstore of well over 100,000 square feet on the west side of town near Chenoweth Creek and the surrounding wetlands.

Walmart is aggressively seeking to grow its impact in the gorge — despite the competition. Hood River already has two large chain grocery stores, Rosauers and Safeway, as well as a few boutique stores like Farm Stand in the Gorge and Mother's Marketplace. The Dalles is home to Safeway, Fred Meyer, Cash and Carry and the Grocery Outlet among others,

Citizen opposition and local business groups have formed in both gorge towns to oppose Walmart's proposed projects. In The Dalles, Citizens for Responsible Development is attempting to stop the superstore from breaking ground in the environmentally sensitive area. Chenoweth Creek is a salmon-spawning ground and a tributary to the Columbia.

 “I look at them as a corporate citizen, and they are just the worst,” says Becky Brun, executive director of Hood River Citizens for a Local Economy (HRCLE), a local business advocacy group. Brun cites Walmart’s labor practices and the company's lack of involvement in the local community as key reasons for her opposition. Walmart’s low prices and deep pockets also pose clear challenges to local small business and even to  mega-stores like Safeway, Burn says. “Walmart is known to put a lot of people out of business."

Hood River's Walmart is located in a light industrial zone, and HRCLE is using existing land use regulations to try and stop the expansion. Allowed uses in a light industrial zone have changed since the original store was built, Brun says. 

For its part, Walmart is arguing that they are simply completing what they started when the store was built in 1991. The company believes they have a vested right to add the grocery. Brun believes the Hood River City Council's 4-3 vote denying the grocery expansion in 2012 will hold fast despite the appeal. The Walmart Supercenter in The Dalles will likely be approved and built, she says.

Walmart isn't the only corporate giant seeking to expand in the Gorge. In June, search engine giant Google applied for and quickly received a variance for the height restrictions on buildings along the Columbia River in The Dalles.  However, Google has yet to announce specific plans to expand or build at the site. The company apparently applied for the variance so there would be no hurdle to a two-story building project if they eventually decide to take action. Google's name has cachet and the company has a reputation for creating quality jobs and bringing in considerable tax revenue, all of which may explain the relative lack of citizen opposition to any expansion that might take place in the future.

Matt Werbach is a freelance writer based in Hood River.

Image courtesy of Becky Brun.

 

More Articles

Storyteller in Chief: Natural Prophets

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY SAM BLACKMAN

Storyteller-in-chief with the CEO and co-founder of Elemental Technologies.


Read more...

Ranking the airlines that fly PDX

The Latest
Thursday, July 30, 2015
airlinesthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

17 airlines make stops at Portland International Airport, but not all are not created equal when it comes to customer service.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...

The Backstory: Portland Youth Builders

The Latest
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
blog002 1BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

As part of our green workplaces story, Oregon Business checked out a community service project undertaken by Portland Youth Builders, a nonprofit alternative high school. In partnership with Whole Foods, PYB built garden boxes for a Home Forward  housing site. Home Forward is a government agency that provides housing for low income residents and people with disabilities.


Read more...

Photo log: Murray's Pharmacy

The Latest
Friday, July 17, 2015
OBM-Heppner-Kaplan thumbBY JASON KAPLAN

Photographer Jason Kaplan takes a look at Murray's Pharmacy in Heppner.  The family owned business is run by John and Ann Murray, who were featured in our July/August cover story: 10 Innovators in Rural Health Care.


Read more...

Stemming the tide of money in politics

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
 jeff-lang-2012-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Jeff Lang and his wife Rae used to dole out campaign checks like candy.  “We were like alcoholics,” Lang says. ”We couldn’t just give a little.”


Read more...

Quake as metaphor

Linda Baker
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
071515-earthquakia-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Big One serves as an allegory for Portland, a city that earns plaudits for lifestyle and amenities but whose infrastructure is, literally, crumbling.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS