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Wal-Mart expansion: Take two

Kitsap County is having a second go at a public hearing for the proposed expansion of the Bethel Road Wal-Mart.

The first public hearing, scheduled for July 24, was canceled at the last minute to allow opponents’ lawyers more time to review the record. The new hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow in the commissioners’ chambers at the Kitsap County Courthouse, is expected to attract just as much controversy as the first one.

The Wal-Mart expansion, which would add a grocery element to the South Kitsap retailer, will bring the total square footage of the store to 280,000. This would make Wal-Mart the largest retailer in South Kitsap, surpassing the Fred Meyer multi-store complex on Sedgwick Avenue by 124,000 square feet.

Thanks to late-night deliveries and long store hours, the business, said county planner Jeff Smith, runs essentially 24 hours a day.

Smith said Wal-mart has worked out many issues — including traffic and noise mitigation — to the satisfaction of county staff. The store made concessions on the number of access points it could have and submitted a pre-plan that addressed future residential development on the southeast corner of the site.

However, significant opposition to the expansion is already brewing. Mary Ann and Bill Huntington, whose backyard faces the proposed expansion area, have filed an appeal under the State Environmental Protection Act. Any major development must file SEPA paperwork that states the construction will not negatively impact the surrounding area or that such impacts will be addressed and mitigated ahead of time.

The Huntingtons claim Wal-Mart has not sufficiently addressed numerous environmental impacts, particularly those involving noise.

Other issues involve a no-build zone Wal-Mart is allegedly encroaching on with its expansion and traffic — especially truck traffic — increases in that area.

Wal-Mart is surrounded on two sides by residential development, so the county is expecting a significant amount of testimony Thursday morning. In fact, Smith said, the expectation of public comment is one of the reasons the county opted to hold a public hearing at this stage. Usually, Smith explained, public hearings don’t convene until the issue gets to the county commissioners.

Despite all the revisions that have been made in the last two years Wal-Mart has been working with the county, Smith hinted he expects more yet to come — either as a result of tomorrow’s hearing or later when the examiner’s decision is inevitably appealed to the Board of Commissioners. With at least one appeal already launched and more possibly yet to come, Smith doesn’t anticipate the coming process to be a smooth one by any means.

“These projects are complicated and there’s always something to work out,” he said. “We’ll just have to see where things land.”

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