Sponsored by Oregon Business

Walmart seeks Gorge expansion

| Print |  Email
Thursday, June 20, 2013


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

100 Best Nonprofits: Working for equality inside and out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.


Adjusting to the New Economy

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

A conversation with Jonathan Bennett, managing partner at law firm Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue.


Money Troubles

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

The state’s angel investing fund gets hammered in Salem.


Ranking the airlines that fly PDX

The Latest
Friday, August 14, 2015

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


Storyteller in Chief: Power Player

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 1996, after a 17-year career in the destination marketing industry, where I gained national standing as the CEO of the Convention & Visitors Association of Lane County, I was recruited by the founders of a new professional basketball league for women. The American Basketball League (ABL) hoped to leverage the success of the 1996 USA women’s national team at the Atlanta Olympics — much like USA Soccer is now leveraging the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory in the World Cup. The ABL wanted a team in Portland, and they wanted me to be its general manager.


5 marijuana business people share strategy ahead of recreational sales rollout

The Latest
Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ahead of the recreational rollout, what are dispensary owners most concerned about ?


Photos: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon awards dinner

The Latest
Thursday, October 01, 2015
100best202thumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Images from the big 2015 celebration of worker-friendly organizations that make a difference.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02