This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
The controversial Walmart Supercenter project in Central Tacoma is still alive despite a City Council vote to put a moratorium on such big retail developments and vigorous opposition from the Central Neighborhood Council.
Blame it on a glitch in the city charter.
Although the largest newspaper in the South Sound – The News Tribune – immediately publicized the moratorium after the Aug. 30 vote, the ban didn’t officially go into effect until Sept. 1, when it was published in the Tacoma Daily Index. The day before, Walmart submitted its application to build on the 18-acre Tacoma Elks site along South Union Avenue – effectively circumventing the moratorium.
OK, Walmart gets points for outfoxing community opponents and city officials – who should have had rules already in place regarding this kind of big development. And it showed cunning in keeping its plans secret. (Just the fact that that was necessary indicates Walmart was very aware that its proposal would be unpopular.)
But Walmart would be making a big mistake if it thumbed its nose at the site’s neighbors by trying to push a huge project through. These are the people, after all, that Walmart wants as shoppers and employees; it can’t afford to be seen as a mega-bucks bully.
The development process is far from finished. The public will have opportunities to weigh in, and the Central Neighborhood Council is vowing to fight the proposal.
It would be much better for its cause were Walmart to start making some conciliatory noises. One welcome gesture would be to announce that it would build a smaller-footprint store that would have less impact on traffic, one that would incorporate desirable mixed-use components, such as residential and office space, and other amenities that would appeal to the public.
Walmart’s application did point out an unfortunate loophole in the city charter, which prevented the moratorium from going into effect immediately after the City Council vote. Having to wait for two more days because of the official publication requirement is an invitation for stealth developers to hurry up and submit applications.
Closing that loophole at the earliest opportunity would be a good idea.