Medford decision allowing Wal-Mart supercenter appealed

A citizens group on Friday appealed to the Medford City Council a decision to allow construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the former Miles Field in the south part of town.

The appeal by Talent resident Wendy Siporen, a member of Medford Citizens for Responsible Development, claims the Site Plan and Architectural Commission and city staff improperly interpreted city code by allowing the plan to move forward without a comprehensive traffic impact analysis.

"It did not come as a surprise," said Jennifer Spall, a Wal-Mart senior manager of public affairs in Bellevue, Wash.

The City Council could hear the appeal as soon as Sept. 18, said City Recorder Glenda Owens.

Spall said Wal-Mart has followed city code and fulfilled all the city's requests. A comprehensive traffic impact analysis is not required by city code, she said.

Siporen did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the appeal.

Her attorney, Kenneth Helm of Beaverton, said city code indicates that a traffic study should be conducted for any new development that impacts arterial and collector roads.

The city has maintained comprehensive traffic studies are required only when a development involves a zone change.

Wal-Mart has requested a zone change on less than a quarter acre of land at its 19-acre property at 1360 Center Drive. But city staff members said they recommended approval of the zone change because city code requires a traffic study only when the change involves generating more than 250 vehicle trips a day.

"The code says you should do a traffic impact analysis at the time of development, not 10 to 15 years ago during the last zone change," Helm said.

The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals in 2005 required the city to demonstrate that a comprehensive traffic study is not required by code, and the city has failed to do that, the appeal contends.

Of particular concern is the intersection of Stewart Avenue and Highway 99, near where the store would have a secondary entrance and exit.

"The opponents are union groups and people who don't live in the city of Medford," Spall said, referring to some people who turned out for a public hearing last month on the proposed store.

Citizens for Responsible Development includes both Medford city residents and people who live outside the city.

"Approval (of the store) was unanimous by the (Medford) Planning Commission and the Site Plan and Architectural Commission," Spall said. "We are proud of our plan. We have hundreds of supporters in the city limits who back us on this."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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