As I listen to a song on KMUN called The Tall Trees They Cut Down, I write to inform you of the impending opening of a Walmart Supercenter next to Costco, along Highway 101 in Warrenton. This post follows the recent letter to the editor in the Daily Astorian by Sara Meyer, who among many other activities, chairs the Clatsop Residents Against Walmart (CRAW).
I attended a meeting of that group last night, and found out the latest on the Walmart story. As you can see from the photo above, the new location for the biggest of big box stores is along 101 in the southernmost regions of the North Coast Business Park. By the way, this photo is the only evidence in print (or electrons) that there really is a Walmart being proposed for this location. It was distributed to local businesses in a pitch to get them to relocate to the Warrenton Highlands development across the highway from the retail business park. I got a copy at the CRAW meeting last night. The photo also shows some more chain stores and even a bank going into the business park.
I’m struck by the similarity of the photo above to the cover drawing done by Joal Morris for an article I wrote in HIPFiSH in November 2009 called Paradise Lost? (see right). I wonder if some of the chain stores depicted in that 2009 drawing, which were rumored to be coming to the 101 corridor then, might show up soon in the real lineup. Looking at the For Sale signs along 101 in Warrenton, it certainly seems like some of the transactions I talked about in the 2009 article might come to pass.
As for Walmart, rumors have been circulating since at least 2009 that the retail giant would be locating in Warrenton somewhere, sometime soon. The bet then, and until recently, was the area along 101 behind the Les Schwab auto row at the intersection of Business 101 and the main line. That property is now bare and almost flat, drying out after recently being clear-cut, “just getting it ready to sell” according to Martin Nygaard, the property’s owner. No potential buyer has been identified, but Walmart and Nygaard have stated that it’s not going to be the long-rumored supercenter. Evidently, permits were too hard to get, the property wasn’t big enough, or some such technicality.
A company called Peaksview LLC (a front company for Ken Leahy, owner of the property, and also infamously owner of the property on which the Bradwood Landing LNG terminal was to be built) is applying for a wetland fill permit for the North Coast Business Park property indicated in the top photo. They got the Warrenton City Commission to agree that the wetlands there should be deemed “insignificant” in preparation for their permit application to the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL). That application is currently up for public comment until 5:00 PM this Sunday – Mother’s Day, May 13. A decision by DSL that the wetlands cannot be filled, if upheld, would effectively stop the Walmart project, at least for now, at least in this place.
The good people of CRAW are asking that as many people as possible voice their opposition to the permit application to fill the wetlands on the affected property. Information about the application is available on DSL’s website, including to whom to send your comments. If you read this on Friday, May 11, then you can get more information about the permit from DSL’s Dan Cary, by calling him at 503-986-5302. I’ve spoken to Cary before on another issue, and he is very helpful and honest. You can also get some ideas for your comments from Cameron La Follette of Oregon Coast Alliance (ORCA) at 503-391-0210. ORCA submitted detailed comments on the permit application today.
No matter what DSL decides to do with the wetland fill permit application, the fight to keep Walmart out of our region will continue. And the saga of Paradise Lost on the 101 corridor through Warrenton continues as well. I encourage you to get and stay involved, and keep our elected leaders and the(ir?) corporate bosses accountable not only to you and other local residents and visitors, but also to the wildlife and beautiful landscape that we are blessed to call home, and, arguably, paradise still.
Editors Note: The original version of this post listed the deadline for comments as midnight on May 13, 2012 (as was understood by the author). The deadline is in fact 5:00 PM on May 13, 2012.