Walmart stores still provoke uncommon opposition

Walmart stores still provoke uncommon opposition

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Even as Walmart stores become commonplace in Oregon, the big box retailer from Bentonville, Ark., still stirs uncommon opposition.

Word that a new Walmart will anchor Gramor Development’s Sherwood Town Center — eight miles from a Tigard store also in construction — brings fresh opposition. In both cases, city officials have issued permits for the projects, leaving critics little local recourse.

Ray Pitz at the Times of Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, a Pamplin Media Group publication, reports last week’s announcement about the Sherwood store set off a “firestorm” of protest as well as promises to fight the chain’s latest expansion.

Local land use decisions can be appealed to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, which has the authority to review local decision making. LUBA officials report they have not yet heard from opponents of the 145,000-square-foot Sherwood store.

The Tigard and Sherwood stores will be the 39th and 40th Oregon locations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) when they open in 2014.

Since the company entered Oregon in 1992, its plans have regularly drawn opposition over its size, traffic impact, treatment of employees and its competitive price advantage over smaller retailers.

Those issues were on full view when the Portland Business Journal polled readers for their thoughts on why so many people hate Wal-Mart.

(Editor’s note: The company name is “Wal-Mart Stores Inc.” while individual stores are branded “Walmart.”)

The unscientific poll results were evenly split with about 30 percent each voting for “I don’t think it treats its employees well,” “It competes with favorite local retailers” and “I like Wal-Mart.” Nine percent complained that “It’s a generic big-box retailer.”

Commenters offered a variety of views on everything from traffic congestion to competing with local business.

Ed Israel of Portland State University said traffic issues are a concern but that emotion can overtake the debate.

“It did blow me away when I watched someone speaking at a meeting last night who actually cried because WalMart might be coming to their neighborhood. This person was against it. A great example of how emotion can overrun reason. We have a Walmart about a mile from our home. It is a very nice store, the people are nice, and the world is not coming to an end,” he wrote.

Read more comments at the Business Journal web site.

For a different view of how Wal-Mart operates in Portland, take a peek at the downtown Portland office of Walmart Labs, a fast growing division that develops mobile apps for the company. The office was recently featured in the Business Journal's Cool Spaces series.

The Portland Business Journal is a KATU news partner.

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