MEDFORD — The City Council Thursday narrowly rejected challenging a Land Use Board of Appeals decision that at least temporarily blocks a proposed WalMart store in south Medford.
The council agreed to revisit the issue at its June 18 meeting, which would still allow adequate time to appeal the decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
LUBA concluded that the Medford development code does not allow the city to approve a site for development if the applicant has not submitted a traffic impact analysis.
The council has not required WalMart to prepare a traffic study.
Councilman Jim Kuntz moved to follow the recommendation of City Attorney John Huttl — appeal the LUBA ruling and amend the city code to clarify when a traffic study should occur in the development process.
"This has far-reaching consequences," Kuntz told the City Council. "I'd favor immediate appeal."
Three council members approved a motion to appeal — Kuntz, Chris Corcoran and Bob Strosser — while four voted against — Al Densmore, Ben Truwe, Jill Stout and Greg Jones. Dick Gordon abstained, saying that as a new arrival to the council in January, he didn't have enough information about the five-year history of the project to cast an informed vote.
Densmore said he would like time to talk with people in the development community before voting on an appeal. He moved to revisit the appeal at the council's June 18 meeting, which passed with only Kuntz's dissenting vote.
The LUBA decision prolongs a five-year campaign to build a WalMart Supercenter on South Pacific Highway on the site of the old Miles Field baseball stadium. Opponents of the project formed a group called Medford Citizens for Responsible Development.
They have challenged the store on several issues, and prevailed each time. On the traffic issue, they say WalMart, rather than taxpayers, should be responsible for improving streets if the development causes unacceptable congestion.
After the council adjourned, Rich Rohde, a representative for the Oregon Action citizens group, said "Some members of the council are trying to twist themselves into pretzels to avoid doing a traffic study for WalMart.
"It's our strong belief that citizens who care about what happens in their community ought to have a voice strong enough to counter WalMart's legal machine," Rohde said.
Kuntz said after the meeting that "LUBA overstepped its bounds. I'd like to see a higher court rule and get it over one way or another."
He said the LUBA ruling could be interpreted to mean that every development would need to prepare a traffic study.
"That's going to cost people a lot of money. We would just be putting another level of stuff on developers who just want to do their development."
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail:email@example.com