Wednesday, May 22, 2013
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June 26, 2012
SALEM -- The Land Use Board of Appeals heard arguments Thursday in the appeal of the city of Dallas' decision to uphold expansion plans for the Dallas Walmart.
Walmart has proposed adding about 18,000 square feet to the current store and incorporate a grocery section.
Thursday's hearing focused on concerns about increased congestion near the store's entrances and the lack of a traffic impact analysis (TIA).
Sean Malone, attorney for the appellants, argued that the city should have required Walmart to conduct a TIA, using "local data" to determine how the expansion would impact traffic patterns.
Walmart's application for the expansion included a study estimating traffic increases based on the Institute of Transportation Engineers' (ITE) "Trip Generation Manual." The estimate determined 642 more daily trips would occur due to the expansion.
Malone questioned the methodology because the consultant, Transpo Group, extrapolated estimates from figures for stores 125,000 to 233,000 square feet, bigger than the 99,000 square feet for the Dallas store.
The appellants said, according to the ITE manual, in the absence of estimates for a store the same size, the consultant should collect traffic counts from a local store.
"If we are falling outside the range (size) there needs to be justification for why local data was not used," Malone said.
Mike Connors, attorney representing Walmart, said a memo from the consultant provides justification: "No similarly sized, freestanding discount superstores are located within the local Dallas area. As a result, no local data can be obtained to develop a trip generation rate."
LUBA Chairwoman Melissa Ryan questioned whether Dallas Safeway would be in the same category as the Walmart for the purposes of a traffic study.
Tod Bassham, the other LUBA member present, asked if some extrapolation wasn't necessary in all cases, especially if the stores in question vary in size.
Malone said he wasn't sure if the Dallas Safeway or other local Walmart stores were a good fit for gathering data, but insisted Walmart needed to explore those options.
"It's important to remember that the applicant had the burden of proof, not the opponent," Malone said.
Secondly, the appellants claim the Dallas Development Code requires a traffic analysis because the estimated increased daily trips surpasses the threshold of 300. However, the code also states the TIA should be prepared in consultation with the road authority, the Oregon Department of Transportation, as the roads with major entrances are under its jurisdiction. ODOT determined no TIA was necessary.
Malone said the city should have -- and has the authority -- to require a TIA. He stated in his brief that the second provision (Subsection B) merely described how a TIA should be prepared, not whether it should be performed.
"Subsection B does not provide a basis to excuse the City from complying with its own requirements," he wrote.
Dallas City Attorney Lane Shetterly said the city has the responsibility of interpreting its code.
"In harmonizing two conflicting sections, the city is acting in its role as local decision maker," Shetterly said, adding the city doesn't have the authority to require ODOT make changes to its roads if a TIA recommended them.
Shetterly said he was encouraged by the hearing and the questions asked by LUBA.
"I thought it went swimmingly for the city," he said.
LUBA could issue its final decision as soon as July 12, but may use a seven-day extension and issue it July 19.