Hood River Residents Link “Arms Around Our Town”

Date: 1 Aug 2002 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

More than 200 residents of Hood River, Oregon, linked arms to form a giant circle around their downtown one Friday afternoon in late May. Organized by the Hood River Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG), the “Arms Around Our Town” event was designed to demonstrate community support for locally owned businesses, and to illustrate just how large a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter would be and how many local stores would be threatened.

“It was a great event,” said Stuart Watson, CRG co-chair. “It really helped to remind people that this issue isn’t dead.” Earlier this year, both the town and county of Hood River enacted ordinances limiting new retail stores to no more than 50,000 square feet and establishing a special review process for commercial development between 25,000 and 50,000 square feet.

The county’s new size limit does not apply to a proposed 185,000-square-foot Wal-Mart supercenter slated for land just outside the town limits, because the developer submitted an application for the project before the ordinance was adopted.

Nevertheless, the county should still reject the development based on its comprehensive plan, contends CRG. “Wal-Mart is directly at odds with several aspects of the plan,” argues Watson. The plan stipulates that commercial activities should be centralized and strip development should be avoided. The plan states, “The unspoiled scenic beauty is the Columbia Gorges drawing card. Jeopardizing this for short term profit may likely have negative effects on the long-term economy of the area and its adjacent commercial centers.”

“There are more than 3,000 Wal-Marts but there is only one Hood River,” noted Al Norman of the national organization Sprawl-Busters in a debate with a Wal-Mart spokesperson held the Hood River Rotary Club. “Anyone who reads the comprehensive plan for the county will realize this is a bad fit, it just doesn’t make sense.”

CRG has organized a letter-writing campaign and produced two posters that focus on the supercenter’s impact on quality of life and urge adherence to the comprehensive plan. A public hearing on the development is scheduled for July 31.


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Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.