Monday, April 26, 2010

Riddenbaugh Press Muffs One

Ordinarily, I love reading Randy Stapilus’ Riddenbaugh Press, an absorbing, authoritative and often entertaining blog on politics in the Pacific Northwest. A recent post, however, shows that the S-Man isn’t infallible.

He wrote April 12 that Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart’s plans to move stores in Idaho/Washington border towns Lewiston and Moscow to neighboring Clarkston and Pullman, Washington, is evidence of, well, what I’m not quite sure. That Washington is more pro-growth. That even though Washington is set to raise taxes on a number of items that Wal-Mart sells, the behemoth would rather do business in Washington than Idaho.

He’s overlooking something:

Zoning laws.

Zoning laws, which liberals such as Stapilus usually trumpet and support and say are preserving the life-blood of small towns throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The Idaho Statesman has this to say today:

MOSCOW, Idaho — A Walmart official says a store in Moscow slated for closure this fall might stay open now that city leaders are looking at amending a zoning ordinance that would allow the store to expand.

Michael Bender is senior vice president of Walmart's mountain division.

In a letter to the editor submitted to The Lewiston Tribune late last week, he writes that the company will consider changing its plans if the city allows the store to expand.

The company earlier this month announced plans to close the Moscow location once a super center opens in Pullman, Wash., just across the state border.

Walmart initially planed for super centers in both Moscow and Pullman, but an ordinance several years ago prevented the Moscow store from expanding into a super center.
Note that all-important final sentence. Had Moscow not had it’s “progressive” zoning laws, Walmart would be staying, fissioning its supercenter plans, as the company often does in areas where there are a lot of people who like to shop at their stores. No talk of moving from one state to another because of “pro-growth” sentiment or a “progressive” tax code – more like being frustrated that “progressive” zoning laws are putting a hamstring on what business is allowed to do in one state, while not having to contend with such hamstrings across the border. Might the case be the same in Lewiston/Clarkston?

Not quite, but similar. The Lewiston Tribune said in 2008 that the company looked in both cities for a site for a supercenter, and will continue looking in Lewiston for a site -- but will abandon its Lewiston site because theyre' unable to expand into a supercenter there.

The Trib also interestingly points out that Washington's minimum wage is higher than Idaho -- another nail in the progressive coffin Stapilus and others tried to build.

It's also worth nothing that Walmart's decision to build in Pullman wasn't all rainbows and unicorns; in fact, the company and developer went through years of litigation in order to win the right to buildin Pullman. That hardly sounds progressive.

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