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FEATURE NEWS

DAVID AND GOLIATH BATTLE OVER WALMART IN MONROE MOVES TO EVERETT COURT ROOM
December 21, 2011




Community members protest in Monroe, WA March 12, 2011 against planned Walmart store. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE


Larger image of above, community members protest in Monroe, WA March 12, 2011 against planned Walmart store. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(MONROE, WA) -- It’s about as real a modern day David and Goliath story as you’re about to find; a group of spunky community activists in Monroe who feel their neighborhood is about ready go down the proverbial tubes – thanks to the Mayor and city council - is taking on the biggest, richest, most powerful retailer in the world that has more money than God and at its disposal every top legal gun one would ever want to hire.

And David expects to win.

The battle over a Walmart Superstore that the giant retailer wants to plop down on 17-acres just a few blocks from Highway 2 in the heart of Monroe shifts to a court room in Everett Wednesday where a judge is scheduled to hear arguments on a challenge to Walmart’s planned march into the city

A judge will hear augments on a land use appeal filed May 17 in Snohomish County Superior Court against the city of Monroe by Friends of North Kelsey, an outgrowth of the Monroe Preservation Action Committee (MPAC), which opposed the city council’s approval of Walmart’s construction plans at the North Kelsey shopping district.

Friends of North Kelsey is comprised of a group of Monroe and Monroe area residents, most of which have been active in the battle against Walmart’s planned construction of that huge store that would dominate retail in this community like no other store in the past.

Walmart wants the store just a few blocks off Highway 2 in Monroe at North Kelsey Street, one of the busiest intersections on the highway.

Besides the city of Monroe, the lawsuit names Pacland and North Kelsey LLC. Pacland is identified in the filing as the applicant for the Walmart site construction permit on behalf of North Kelsey, LLC.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the city’s approval of Walmart’s construction site plan for North Kelsey on the basis that the Walmart project does not meet the development and design guidelines adopted years ago by the city (after extensive community input) for the North Kelsey commercial development area.

The lawsuit also claims the city’s decision to give Walmart the green light to build “was based upon an erroneous interpretation of law, a clearly erroneous application of the law to the facts, and was not supported by substantial evidence in the record,” for a number of reasons.

PLAINTIFFS ALLEGE ERRORS BY THE CITY IN SEVERAL AREAS

Plaintiffs contend the city erred when it allowed Walmart to consolidate the development agreement with the binding site plan and grading permit into one package.

The effect of consolidation claims the appeal, was to place the Monroe City Council in the position of the one and only final decision making body in the entire controversial Walmart approval process, leaving taxpayers fully out of the loop.

Some critics claim that was no accident. They feel the small group that has comprised the majority on the council ever since the Walser regime was deposed - a group made up of what they view as generally hard right wing political conservatives with strong fundamentalist religious overtones - had planned all along to ramrod Walmart through the process to the point where it was a fate accompli’ before the community was wise to what was happening.

Some of the alleged motives for the council allegedly fast tracking Walmart were detailed, along with other exclusive information, in a 2-part exclusive Chronicle story on the Walmart issue May 10, 2011 that can be found here

The suit also claims the land use, traffic and aesthetic impacts of the Walmart proposal will be “significant and adverse and they were not adequately addressed" in the North Kelsey sub area planned action nor were they adequately addressed by the Walmart traffic study or the city of Monroe staff.

As for relief the lawsuit seeks an order reversing the Monroe City Council’s approval of the Walmart development agreement, the building site plan, the grading permit, and Walmart’s conceptual site plans.

In addition to seeking a reversal of the approval, the suit seeks the court to remand the matter for proper “environmental review of the impacts of the project and a new decision to follow based on that proper environmental review."

The action also asks the court that Monroe be ordered to pay for the plaintiff’s costs and attorney fees and for “further relief as is just and equitable."

COMMUNITY MEMBERS FIRST TREID ANOTHER TACTIC PRIOR TO LAWSUIT

In late April members of MPAC petitioned the Monroe City Council to reconsider its approval on March 29 of Walmart, Inc. to build the huge store at the North Kelsey shopping district.

The MPAC reconsideration appeal asked the city to reverse its North Kelsey Development Agreement/Binding Site Plan with Sabey/Walmart in order to require Sabey/Walmart to comply with the Monroe Municipal Code

The petition claimed the city made errors in law in dealing with Walmart. The council quickly rejected the reconsideration appeal.

CONSOLIDATION AND ACTING AS FINAL, OMNIPOTENT AUTHORITY WAS WRONG CLAIMS THE SUIT

Sam Wirsching, one of the plaintiffs in this most recent action by Friends of North Kelsey, addressed the issue of the council rolling all Walmart items into one consolidated package – and then acting as the one and only authoritative, final decision maker on the issue - on April 26 when the council soundly rejected an MPAC petition for reconsideration of Monroe’s go ahead to Walmart

“The reconsideration that we filed basically comes down to this - and they talked about this in open council – this (legal) term of ultra vires.

That’s where you (the council) fast track all these things that they wanted to get through the permitting process and the city council appoints themselves public hearer, which they did, and said that not only are we going to fast track this but we are the ultimate decision maker AND we’re making this a quasi-judicial issue so that you (individual council members) can’t talk about this with anybody…well, there is supposed to be a third party arbitration…there is supposed to be the planning commission who comes in and verifies it so that if you have two groups that are at odds against one another (pro and con Walmart factions in the city) there’s fairness in it and what just happened tonight was you had councilman Goering basically get up and say “we do what we wanna do and we don’t consider your point,” Wirsching added.

“I feel like they have their own agenda, they are looking for a fight, they are looking to have someone challenge them. They don’t believe that anybody can hold them accountable and that was absolutely proven tonight,” added Wirsching.



Editor’s Note: Under constitutional law, particularly in Canada and the United States, constitutions give federal and provincial or state governments various powers. To go outside those powers would be ultra vires.





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