Medford council decision favors Wal-Mart

The Medford City Council struck down an appeal Thursday night of a citizens group seeking to block the building of a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the former Miles Field in the south part of town.

The council's decision came after spirited testimony by Jackson County residents for and against the construction of the proposed 176,500 square foot store.

In addition, lawyers representing Wal-Mart and the Medford Citizens for Responsible Development pleaded their cases before the council.

The appeal by Talent resident Wendy Siporen, a member of the opposition group, argues the Site Plan and Architectural Commission (SPAC) and city staff erred in their interpretation of a city code by allowing the plan to push forward without a traffic impact analysis.

The opponents say heavy traffic entering and leaving the store will cause gridlock at the south Medford interchange.

They also are concerned that Stewart Avenue and Highway 99 could be adversely affected by Wal-Mart traffic.

Christine Lachner was disappointed in the council's decision. She claims the issue does not solely rest with Wal-Mart, but that any large box store in the area would bottle up traffic.

"I would be saying the same thing if it was a Fred Meyer or a Market of Choice," Lachner said.

"Look at Highway 62 and Delta Waters Road where the north Wal-Mart is. It's terrible up there and we were originally told traffic would not be a problem."

The appeal was rejected in a 5 to 1 vote. Councilman Bob Strosser was not present at the meeting after recusing himself. Councilman John Statler was the one dissenting vote.

The "yes" vote was given less than enthusiastically by council members Ben Truwe and Jill Stout. Truwe said he would certainly like to see a traffic study completed before the store is built, but could not find evidence SPAC improperly interpreted the city code.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jennifer Spall was happy to see the project move forward after five years of remands by the city and appeals by the citizens group. Spall has not illusions that it will be smooth sailing from here on, though.

"This is not over," she said. "We are expecting another appeal within six months."

Siporen said the plan is to make the city council defend its decision before the Land Use Board of Appeals.

"The city cannot deny that a traffic study was called for in this case," Siporen said. "No one wants to say the code was not enforced properly. Ignoring it won't make it go away."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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