NO SUPER WALMART YES MOSCOW
Survey: Businesses favor controlled growth; Moscow chamber collects responses to questions on large-scale retail development

By Omie Drawhorn
Daily News staff writer


Moscow businesses favor controlled growth and want all new retail businesses in the area to receive equal treatment.

These were a few of the findings from an online survey conducted by the Moscow Chamber of Commerce last month on the topic of large-scale retail development and growth.

Throughout the past few months, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the potential development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in east Moscow. The chamber wanted local businesses to weigh in on the direction of development in town and found many of the members had very different responses.

"We have a very diverse business community," chamber Executive Director Paul Kimmell said. "This is Moscow. We have as many opinions as we do (chamber) members."

About 30 percent of the chamber's 465 members responded, and Kimmell said that number is "pretty significant."

The survey showed the largest number of respondents, 36 percent, favored controlled growth in Moscow and nearly 75 percent believed the addition of another large retailer in the community would have either a positive effect or no effect on their business.

"The majority of people favor growth through land-use planning," Kimmell said.

He said the response shows the Planning and Zoning Commission ideally should spend more time on planning and less time on zoning.

"Growth will come. We can plan and guide it, or we can ignore and regret it. I want us to plan," one person wrote on their survey.

Thirty-eight percent favored treating all retail growth the same under zoning laws and 68 percent support the addition of any large retailer in Moscow.

The responses were consistent with the chamber's previous comments regarding fairness and equality between existing and new retailers, which were presented during the city's hearing on large-scale retail development Jan. 30, said Mark Boehne, chamber president.

"New retail growth should be welcomed to our community. The rules of the game must be the same for all," one of the responses read.

Kimmell said the survey was on growth in general and not a referendum on Wal-Mart.

When asked where future development should be concentrated, the largest number of respondents (25 percent) said they favor expansion to the east of town.

Kimmell said he doesn't want to discount the results even though the survey was not scientifically designed.

"I was encouraged by the comments, a lot of time went into responding to the questions, and it will help the board to better gauge the sentiments of its members," he said.

Mayor Nancy Chaney said she participated in the survey when it came out.

The survey "wasn't scientifically designed; some of the questions didn't give me a category where my answer would fit," she said.

Chaney said she would put the survey results in the same category as NewCities, which came up with a list of planning and economic ideas for the city. NewCities is a nonprofit organization hired by the city to assist with planning.

"It's interesting to know and gives us a sense of direction," she said. "It's an excellent start; I'm really encouraged the chamber has tried to collect that information.

City Councilman John Weber said he will take the survey results under consideration.

"The more information we have at our disposal, the better decisions we can make," he said.

He said he'd be interested to see results from any kind of survey a group in town decided to conduct.

"We're very pleased with the results and commitment of the business community to step up and comment" Kimmell said. "It's reassuring that they support a good business environment,"

* Omie Drawhorn can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 234, or by e-mail at odrawhorn@dnews.com.


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