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Council Upholds Walmart Expansion

DALLAS -- The City Council has upheld the Dallas Planning Commission's approval of Walmart's plans to expand its Dallas store following an appeal hearing Monday night.

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Attorney Sean Malone, representing appellants Lydia Graber, Citizens for Dallas, Jeremiah Mulder and Randall Houser, speaks to the Dallas City Council Monday.

DALLAS -- The City Council has upheld the Dallas Planning Commission's approval of Walmart's plans to expand its Dallas store following an appeal hearing Monday night.

The hearing attracted more than 100 people, prompting the city to hold the meeting in the Dallas Civic Center instead of the council's chambers at City Hall.

The majority of the appeal focused on the impact of increased traffic around the store and if a traffic impact analysis (TIA) should be required for Walmart to expand.

A traffic study included with Walmart's application states the proposed expansion will generate 642 additional trips per day, which surpasses the city code's standard of 300 for requiring an analysis. However, the code also states the traffic analysis should be prepared in consultation with the road authority, in this case the Oregon Department of Transportation, as the roads on which the major accesses are located -- East Ellendale Avenue and Kings Valley Highway -- are under its jurisdiction.

Both city staff and Walmart's attorney, Greg Hathaway, said their interpretation of the code has the city deferring to the road authority to determine if an analysis is needed.

Dallas Community Development Director Jason Locke said the planning commission did not require a study because ODOT didn't require one.

"There is ample evidence in the record to show that trip generation estimates did not meet thresholds for a traffic study," Locke said, referring to ODOT's requirements for further analysis.

The appellants, Lydia Graber, Citizens for Dallas, Jeremiah Mulder and Randall Houser, represented by Eugene attorney Sean Malone, assert that is not the correct interpretation of the code.

"The Dallas Development Code is unequivocal in its requirement for a Traffic Impact Analysis when a development application will result in more than 300 average trips," Malone wrote in a memo to the council.

He said the part of the code that refers to consulting with the road authority address how the analysis should be prepared, not whether it should be prepared.

Hathaway responded by saying the code does have ambiguity on the issue, but argued that the city has the right to interpret its own code.

"We believe your planning commission is interpreting the code correctly," he said.

Malone added the traffic study performed by Transpo Group of Kirkland, Wash., that was included in the application did not use correct parameters to estimate potential traffic increases. He said the study used traffic estimates included in the Institute of Traffic Engineers Trip Generation Manual that didn't match the size of the expansion.

Lastly, appellants asked the city, if the decision was upheld, to add a condition of approval requiring Walmart to store fertilizers, compost and other potential pollutants under cover or inside the store to prevent runoff into the stormwater system.

In its vote to uphold the planning commission decision, the council included the condition.

Malone said the appellants may decide to take the appeal to the state's Land Use Board of Appeals.

"The appellants are concerned about the impact to all residents of Dallas, for their safety," Malone said following the hearing. "It's unfortunate the city council looked beyond that."

Walmart is proposing an 18,317-square-foot expansion, which will add a grocery line and reconfigure the store's parking lot. Plans for the proposed expansion were approved by the planning commission in January.

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