Wal-Mart to tear down two buildings on Salmon Creek site

Company has no construction date for two-story store

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Two years after winning a court battle to build a Salmon Creek Supercenter, Wal-Mart is showing new interest in the site.

But no construction date is planned for the rare two-story Walmart store, proposed for 14 acres just east of Interstate 205 at Northeast 134th Street, said Rachel Wall, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. However, Wall confirmed Friday the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has put out bids to have the site cleared of two vacant buildings at 12923 and 12925 N.E. Rockwell Drive, on the south end of Wal-Mart's tract.

The company fought hard to win approval to build on the property, bordered by 134th and 129th streets to the north and south, and by 27th Avenue to the west.

That right would have expired by now if government officials had not extended construction permit deadlines to December 2014 for starting projects approved between June 1, 2004 and Dec. 31, 2008.

"The extension was not given to Wal-Mart alone. They are a beneficiary," said Michael Uduk, a planner with Clark County's Community Development Department.

Other projects approved for development that would have started during the economic downturn also benefited from the extension, he said.

Wall would not confirm whether Wal-Mart aims to start work by the deadline.

"The Salmon Creek project is still in the planning phase and no store construction schedule is available at this time," she wrote.

Uduk said preparations and site work for the project will have to meet the county's approval before Wal-Mart can obtain a permit to begin actual construction of its planned 177,000-square-foot discount store.

Wal-Mart expects crews to tear down the buildings by March 31, according to construction bid documents at the website secure.smartbidnet.com.

The work will "ensure the safety of the site," Wall said in her Friday email.

Wal-Mart's project, allowed by a state Court of Appeals decision in 2012, also will need to satisfy a list of development conditions before permits can be issued, Uduk said.

"Conditions can range from meeting and complying with standards relating to traffic, stormwater and erosion controls to ensuring that you have adequate site parking," he said.

Wal-Mart first proposed plans to build the discount store in 2005 to attract food shoppers after concluding that its Highway 99 store's site was too small to add a grocery component there. Wal-Mart purchased the site after it was rejected by Legacy Health System, which later built its nearby Salmon Creek hospital a bit northwest of the Wal-Mart site.

Wal-Mart's plan was challenged by the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, which claimed the development would create drainage problems and an unsafe traffic plan. In 2007, Clark County commissioners found flaws with Wal-Mart's plans, and the county's lawyers took up the neighbors' case. But in 2010, state Court of Appeals judges ruled the county had failed to offer enough facts to demonstrate a problem, allowing the project to go forward.