Miles Field was removed in 2004, and four years later the former baseball field is a fenced but vacant lot. A recent change in the plan shows the proposed store facing south instead of east. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Wal-Mart revives Medford effort

MEDFORD — With modified plans in hand, proponents of a Wal-Mart Supercenter project will address the Medford City Council Thursday. This time, members of a citizens group may also get to have their say.

The Wal-Mart plan has been stalled by a legal challenge over whether a citizens' group had proper opportunity to comment on the company's plans.

The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals ruled in September that the city erred in barring the group from speaking in a November 2005 public hearing.

Two-and-a-half years later, Wal-Mart will return with a plan that calls for a reduction in the overall square footage and for the front of the store to face south instead of east.

"It will still be a Supercenter," Jennifer Spall, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said Monday.

Spall, who said she did not know the new square footage size, said Wal-Mart made the changes in an effort to respond to concerns raised by citizens.

The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St., Medford.

Representatives of Medford Citizens for Responsible Development, which filed the legal action, plan to ask the council to ensure that the company pays for street upgrades needed as a result of additional vehicle traffic.

"As a group we're saying that the council needs to demand that a traffic study be done," said Shareen Vogel, spokeswoman for the citizens group. "Traffic has gotten ludicrous and we want the council to show leadership."

The new Wal-Mart store is proposed for the site of the former Miles Field baseball stadium, south of the Medford Armory and adjacent to a new freeway interchange expected to open in 2009. The area near the project has some of the city's largest traffic loads.

In the 2005 hearing, city attorney John Huttl said the group could not offer comment because it had lost "standing" in the matter when it failed to file a brief in a 2004 LUBA appeal.

On Monday, Huttl said this week's public hearing is to consider a request from Wal-Mart that the council remand the application to the city's Site Plan and Architectural Commission to consider the modifications. He said the council will decide whether to let the citizens group testify Thursday.

"I anticipate that the council will hear from them before deciding how to proceed," he said.

The group has argued that the developers of the proposed 207,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter project should be required to conduct a comprehensive traffic study for the site. Such a study would show the additional traffic the store would generate and make Wal-Mart financially responsible for street improvements needed to handle it.

Wal-Mart representatives responded that the city could not require them to do a comprehensive traffic study because a study for the property was completed in 1991 at the time of a zoning change. The City Council approved the Wal-Mart project after numerous hearings.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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