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Important issues left unresolved

Dismissing Wal-Mart's appeal shortchanges the public interest

Wal-Mart opponents are no doubt chortling with glee that the retail giant's appeal of a state land-use decision on its planned Central Point Supercenter was dismissed last week on a technicality. But we find the Appeals Court's action unfortunate, not because we are big Wal-Mart fans ' we're not ' but because it's now unlikely that the case will be decided on its merits.

The state Land Use Board of Appeals ruled in June that Central Point was entitled to insist on a conditional use permit for the Supercenter.

Attorneys for Wal-Mart sent their appeal of the LUBA decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals by certified mail, but used only first-class postage to notify the city of Central Point and Central Point First, a citizens group opposing the Supercenter. Attorneys for the city then asked the court to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that it was not timely filed, which the court did.

Rules are rules, of course. They exist so that everyone involved in court proceedings gets treated fairly. If the courts start making exceptions in some cases but not in others, the rules quickly become meaningless.

Still, this is the second time in four months that the Appeals Court has dismissed a case involving Wal-Mart for the same technical reason. In April, the court dismissed the city of Medford's appeal of a LUBA decision favorable to Wal-Mart's planned south Medford superstore because the city failed to use certified mail.

So far, Wal-Mart is 1-for-2 on the postage issue. But the public has lost twice, because the real issues in each case remain unanswered.

— In Central Point, the main issue is whether the city has the power to decide that a 207,000-square-foot store is too big to qualify as a community shopping center without a conditional use permit. In Medford, where the former Miles Field site is already zoned for a super-sized store, the issue is whether the city can require a store to be compatible with the neighborhood.

Those questions are worth answering. But, short of a successful appeal to the state Supreme Court ' which is under no obligation to even hear the cases ' they won't be. And that's a shame.

A new street

If you haven't had a chance to see the first completed block of Evergreen Way, between Sixth and Main streets in downtown Medford, stop by for a glimpse of the future.

When it is complete, the pedestrian- and bike-friendly, tree-lined street will stretch through downtown from Fourth Street on the north to 10th Street on the south, transforming the gravelly scar along the railroad tracks into an inviting promenade.

With the help of matching grants from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, businesses can create new entrances in the back of their buildings to take advantage of the new street.

This project, coupled with the Bella Vita condominium and retail complex and accompanying parking, is creating real excitement about the direction downtown is taking. We share that excitement, and we credit MURA for the vision and commitment to make it happen.