Not everybody wants a Walmart in Warrenton or any other regional city. It’s a divisive issue and one some Warrenton residents share with people in other communities across the country who oppose the big-box behemoth for a variety of reasons.
In fact, even a quick glance at the internet brings up a host of websites that are dedicated to nothing other than keeping Walmart out of those communities.
But despite opposition by the Clatsop Residents Against Walmart group and others who spoke against the mega-retailer at this past week’s City Commission meeting, Warrenton commissioners made the right decision in renewing Walmart’s site design permit for another year. The approval marked the third time the permit has been extended.
The decision of whether Walmart could build in Warrenton was originally made in 2013 when the commission first granted the retailer’s land use permit. That 2013 decision later drew a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that claimed the agency failed to protect wetlands in its review and approval of a wetland fill permit application by Peaksview LLC. Peaksview owns land that Walmart plans to build on at Ensign Lane and U.S. Highway 101 in the North Coast Retail Center. The suit stalled Walmart’s plans until two weeks ago when a federal judge dismissed the case. The delay, however, forced Walmart to ask for the third extension of its permit.
While in past votes commissioners had been unanimous in their approval, this time it wasn’t a slam dunk. Commissioners voted 3-1 in favor with one commissioner absent from the meeting. The “no” vote is a bit puzzling and came from Commissioner Rick Newton, who said after the meeting that he opposed the extension because “I don’t think it will make life better in Warrenton.” Newton had previously voted “yes” last year on the extension issue.
Despite the flip-flop, the extension approval this past week was right for several reasons.
Whether Warrenton should have a Walmart or not was really decided when the city first began allowing big-box stores. That policy was reaffirmed with the original approval of Walmart’s land use permit and then reinforced by the two additional extensions prior to last week’s action.
And, importantly, Walmart thus far has met each legal requirement to build and open in Warrenton, barring a successful appeal of the judge’s dismissal of the lawsuit. Doing an about-face on the issue now, despite its divisiveness, is a form of discrimination and protectionism that government has no business in practicing.
Governments make overall policy, and consumers, through freedom of choice, ultimately determine a business’s success by making decisions with their feet on where they shop.