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nixes east side rezone
Size of parcel drove decision, councilmen say
By Omie Drawhorn Daily News staff writer
Wal-Mart may need to find a different location if it wants to build a super center in Moscow.
Wal-Mart's plans for a super center on a 77-acre parcel of land were thwarted Monday night after the Moscow City Council quickly voted against a rezone application. In a 3-2 vote, the City Council rejected a requests to rezone the land currently zoned agriculture forestry to motor business. The land, owned by the Gene Thompson family, is in east Moscow between the Troy Highway and East Palouse River Drive, east of South Mountain View Road.
Council members were divided after hearing more than four hours of public testimony during a council meeting two weeks ago. The acreage was annexed into the city last summer, and the city's comprehensive plan was altered to allow for extensive commercial. But the comprehensive plan designation merely acts as a guide for development and is not legally binding, said Joel Plaskon, Moscow community development director.
He said that while motor business may be the most appropriate zone for extensive commercial, the property legally could be zoned for less intense commercial.
Councilwoman Linda Pall, who had recused herself from voting on the rezone, was absent from the meeting due to a stay in the hospital.
Councilmen Aaron Ament, John Dickinson and Bob Stout voted against the rezone. They said the parcel of land was too big.
"Seventy-seven acres is too much," Stout said. "I don't know how much is the right amount, but I don't think the city is ready for it."
But councilmen John Weber and Bill Lambert said the town needs extra motor business land. "It's very justifiable in our community. We haven't had land zoned motor business in over a decade, and this is a parcel of land that will take a number of years to develop," Lambert said. "We need available land for an array of businesses."
Plaskon said there are between 12-15 acres of motor business within the city of Moscow in addition to 40-60 acres behind the Palouse Mall that were annexed into the city last year.
Lambert said he also was concerned about the proposed development on the Pullman-Moscow Highway next to the state line.
"Let's not lose the tax base across the border," he said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the rezone March 8, citing scale and a desire to move toward mixed-use zoning.
"Planning and Zoning's denial was referred to as 'pleasant'," Dickinson said. "Take this in its pleasantness and come back with something we can enjoy."
Ament said he favored development on the west side of town opposed to the east.
"Space available on the west side would be an effective deterrent to development across the border," Ament said.
Weber said Moscow has the regulations in place to control what kind of development goes on the parcel of land with a large scale retail ordinance passed in February.
Mark Solomon, a member of the local No Super Wal-Mart group, said he was pleased with the council's decision.
The "council heard the people of the city of Moscow. They made their decision for all the right reasons," he said.
Shelley Bennett, co-owner of Eastside Marketplace and a Realtor representing the Thompson family, said the council's decision wasn't unexpected.
Karianne Fallow, senior manager of public affairs for Wal-Mart, said she was disappointed.
"The City Council members don't have the foresight to develop in conjunction with the comprehensive plan," she said. "I look forward to continuing a dialogue in the Palouse. A number of customer surveys show us time and again it's what people want."
Fallow said appealing the council's decision would be up to the Gene Thompson family. Ted Thompson, a family spokesperson, did not comment on whether an appeal would be filed.
The appeal would go to district court, said City Attorney Randy Fife.
An appeal must be filed within 28 days of the final decision by the City Council.
"The council's decision is reasonably difficult to overturn," Fife said.
* What happened
The Moscow City Council denied the rezone from agriculture/forestry to motor business of a 77-acre parcel of land in east Moscow.
* What it means
Plans to develop the property cannot move forward.
* What's next
The Thompson family has the option of appealing the City Council's decision in District Court.
Omie Drawhorn can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 234, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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