DALLAS -- The Dallas Planning Commission got an earful regarding the proposed Walmart expansion at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Walmart is proposing an 18,317-square-foot expansion of the current store, located at 321 N. Kings Valley Highway. The expansion will entail adding a full-service grocery section, a facade makeover, an interior remodel, a reconfiguration of the store's parking lot, and closing its oil change and tire service center.
Citizens nearly filled the city council chambers at Dallas City Hall to voice concerns. Most who spoke were opposed to the expansion; however, there was supportive testimony, including a petition Walmart submitted containing 944 names of people who approved of the expansion.
Most concerns related to the expansion's effect on local businesses, traffic, crime and the city's stormwater system.
All those who wanted to testify were heard; however, the decision before the commissioners was strictly procedural: to ascertain whether the proposed plans met city standards for development.
"What we are dealing with is the city's development code and if it (Walmart's plans) meets the criteria," Planning Commission President Chuck Lerwick said.
While points raised about the affect on the local economy weren't pertinent to the commission's decision, traffic and stormwater issues were.
"The additional traffic that will be generated by the expansion gives us concern about traffic congestion and safety," said Dallas resident Lydia Graber, reading from a prepared statement.
Gregory Hathaway, the attorney representing Walmart, explained the Oregon Department of Transportation reviewed the plans and decided the expansion wouldn't generate enough additional traffic to require changes to its entrances. Dallas Community Development Director Jason Locke said the city deferred to ODOT, as the major access points are off state managed roadways.
That explanation didn't satisfy Graber.
"We deserve to know if this expansion will produce increased traffic and how Walmart will handle that increase," she said.
Commissioner Dave Pederson said the traffic issue was a concern for him as well, adding store access from East Ellendale was dicey already.
"That (entrance) is difficult now," he said. "It will be even more difficult when Walmart expands."
Pederson said he believed further analysis should be done. Commissioner David Shein agreed.
"I'm not satisfied with the information we have now," he said.
After the meeting, Locke said the city will review ODOT's response to make sure findings in the application were accurate.
Those in attendance also were concerned about how an enlarged Walmart would affect the city's stormwater system, as well as the possibility of chemical runoff from items believed to be stored at the outdoor garden center.
Locke said Walmart will calculate how the expansion will affect its on-site system. The city will then do an evaluation to determine if the system is adequate and what impact the project will have on the city's system.
As for the concerns regarding outdoor storage of fertilizers in the garden center, Hathaway said it was Walmart's policy not to store potentially harmful chemicals outdoors. He said, if necessary, the company would guarantee that as a condition of approval.
The commission didn't vote on the proposed plans, but decided to allow more time for additional testimony, which will be accepted until today (Wednesday, Nov. 16). Then, Walmart will be given until Wednesday, Nov. 23 to submit a response. The next commission meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 13.