Tigard claims it can stay mum on Walmart plans

TIGARD, Ore. (KOIN) — The city of Tigard denies accusations they let a Walmart store sneak through without public comment.

But the group known as Tigard First argues this is exactly what the city did.

The construction site of the new Walmart is off Highway 217 and Interstate 5. As of Tuesday trucks and tractors are working to complete the new store planned for this site.

Planned Tigard Walmart location
This is the proposed location in Tigard for a new Walmart (April 17, 2013 | Ellen Hansen, KOIN 6 News)

“When was this decided? Who decided this? Why didn’t I get to have a say?” said one Tigard resident.

Some in Tigard are making it clear: the big-box superstore isn’t welcome.

“Walmart has a history of many, many of their employees ending up becoming dependent on public assistance,” said Karen Crichton with Tigard First, “because they don’t make a living wage.”

Walmart workers generally make -2% below market, according to PayScale.com. However, employees weighing in at PayScale.com describe themselves as “highly satisfied,” with perks that include 401(k), paid holidays and vacation, and a stock purchase plan.

Members of Tigard First, a group founded by then-state representative Larry Galizio from Tigard, are questioning the city’s transparency by not coming out and saying a Walmart was opening. But, by law, city leaders say they don’t have to.

“The Tigard First concern [is] it was never identified in those hearings as a Walmart, but that’s not uncommon,” said Liz Newton, Tigard’s assistant city manager. The project was originally billed as merely a big-box store, according to The Oregonian.

Walmart protest
A sign held by protestors who gathered April 17, 2013, at the proposed site of a 137,000-square-foot Walmart superstore in Tigard. That group gathered signatures asking the mayor and city council to block the store’s development. (KOIN 6 News)

While the property is zoned commercial and perfectly legal, the Tigard group of citizens fears the nearby wetlands will become polluted. And there’s also the fear that the opening of a Walmart will hurt surrounding businesses.

“Why is the city not supporting the businesses that are already here,” Crichton said, “[instead of bringing] in a business that is known to bring down local economies, bring down wages?”

Target was originally going to build on this site, but pulled out. The city of Tigard reports Walmart must follow strict city codes, or else:

“We have had some back and forth with Walmart on the conditions and been very clear with them,” Newton said, “that if they want to change any of the conditions, w will need to go back through the public hearing process.”

That’s of little consolation for those against this new Walmart, who now claim they were never given a say. But the city reports the public did get to speak out; the usual two public hearings for a project like this was at one time expanded to four.

But again, it was never announced that a Walmart was going to open and the city reports it does not have to reveal who the retailer is.

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