Thursday, May 30, 2013

i no longer recognize the town

Imagine this scenario.... You live in a small suburb outside of a fairly large city. Your small town, although 15 years ago was a very small rural community, has now grown in to an upscale bedroom community with a good reputation. And let's say that in your town, a private developer planned to put in an athletic stadium. Now, there are already other sports fields and venues in the town, but the addition of a new and even bigger one will not be a bad thing. Everyone, for the most part, agrees that the development and construction of the stadium is a good thing.

In this stadium, the question has come up as to what sort of material the playing field will be made of.... artificial turf or natural grass? No matter which option is chosen, the size, appearance and function of the planned stadium will not change. Due to contract negotiations and confidentiality, the decision of whether the turf will be artificial or natural must be kept secret until the final contracts are signed. There is much buzz about town about which option it will be. There are public notices posted and an, as required by law, at least one public meeting held to discuss the two options. Of the town of roughly 18,000 people, only about 25 of its citizens show up to the public meeting on the stadium. But the rumors and guesses continue.

Now, other towns have also had stadiums built and the option of artificial or natural turf was a hotly debated issue with the natural turf being the "preferred" option. The artificial turf proponents are a rather quiet bunch, not prone to protesting or public complaining, but rather just quietly cast their votes either, (literally) on their voter's ballot, or (figuratively) with their wallet. But the natural turf proponents are a noisy bunch, prone to picketing, sign-making, letter-writing and just all around complaining. They are good at linking to "facts" about the dangers of artificial turf and "evidence" of how artificial turf has destroyed other towns on social medial sites and blogs.

During the planning of the stadium and the hush-hush contract negotiations, the natural turf proponents have been, for the most part, silent. They did not appear, in any organized way, at any of the public meetings regarding the stadium. No letters were written to the editor of the local paper. No testimony was given at City Council meetings or any other public meetings that involved the impending stadium development.

But then the day comes that the contracts are finally signed and it is publicly announced that the new stadium's playing field will be artificial turf. All Hell breaks loose. The anti-artificial turf folks scream and yell and whine and complain that no-way-no-how-not-in-their-town will they have a stadium with artificial turf. They act as if the world is ending and the town will turn in to a ghetto within weeks of the stadium opening. They call for meetings. They write letters to the Editor. They pack the next City Council meeting and loudly voice their displeasure over the final choice. Members of them name-call and threaten the long-term resident on who's family land the stadium is to be built. This same resident is also an elected member of the City Council but he abstained from any votes regarding his property. But still they call for his ousting.

All of this happening AFTER the final contracts were signed. Now don't all of them appear to be petulant children who didn't get their way?

Change some aspects of the above fictional story to the real planned development in Sherwood, Oregon on some of the Langer Family land on which it was recently announced that the anchor store would be a Super Wal-Mart.

In the early 1990's I was living in Keizer, married to my first husband and dreaming about moving to Sherwood. Flash forward to the start of the 2000's and I was married to my second husband and moving in to our newly-built home in Sherwood. We lived in Sherwood for five years after which we moved to Newberg. So Sherwood is no longer my home community but I still do a lot of shopping, dining, visiting clients and attending church there. I also belong to one of the service organizations in town and I still have many friends in Sherwood.

When we lived in Sherwood, it was a rapidly growing bedroom community with a lot of church-going folk who voted, for the most part, conservative. In the early 2000's you could buy/build a very nice house for around $250K and, before the housing crash in 2006, that same house would sell, almost overnight, for around $400K. The streets are clean, the schools are well supported and the parks are green.

Sherwood is still a very nice little town but I felt it had really started to change over the past few years and this recent brouhaha over Wal-Mart coming to town proves it. In the Sherwood I used to know, the citizens would not stay quiet over a rumored change to the city they did not agree with. They would work to try to change the issue before final contracts were signed and it was too late. But in the Sherwood we have today, citizens are instead acting like selfish toddlers who did not get the right flavor of candy that they preferred. Really, it's embarrassing.

Recent press over the issue:
Wal-Mart coming to Sherwood as anchor for town center near downtown
Sherwood residents opposed to Wal-Mart fear collapse of small-town environment
Council gets earful from group opposed to Walmart

It has been known around town for several years now that the next big piece of Langer Family land would be developed and it would be a large retail complex with one large anchor store. So the rumors have flown around town as to who the anchor would be. Fred Meyer? Winco? Cabelas's (this rumor recently put to rest when the coming-soon Tualatin location was confirmed) Or, heaven-forbid, WAL-MART? I supposed Lowe's was probably on the rumor list as well. Sherwood already has Safeway, Albertson's, Home Depot, Target, Regal Cinemas, and a newly opened Kohl's (in the old GI Joe's building). So, whatever the rumored anchor store was, it was already going to have stiff competition in town and would be a redundancy.

Personally, I was rooting for either a Wal-Mart or Winco as both are union-free unlike Fred Meyer.

But now people are screaming that Wal-Mart is going to destroy Sherwood and they are claiming that property values will drop the day it opens. Small, local businesses will suffer with a large competitor to whom they cannot compete on price. But how would any of that be different with a Fred Meyer vs a Wal-Mart? And no one screamed when Target came to town a few years ago.  A large national chain was going in to that spot no matter what. 

And to make matters worse, one of the more junior City Council members is working to pass an ordinance in Sherwood that would require paid sick time for "employers of a certain size." Thus making Sherwood less friendly to business. And many of the citizens are in agreement with her! What happened to the Sherwood I used to know?

And yes, I love the mom-and-pop independent businesses that are the life blood of Sherwood and towns like it. When I find a good one, I am loyal to a fault. It is the people and small businesses that define a community, not the large corporations that choose to put a location there. But national chains bring with them more choice for the consumer and make the mom-and-pops work harder at keeping customer loyalty through a unique product selection and outstanding customer service.

I used to frequent one of Sherwood's independent, locally-owned businesses regularly. But then one day, I heard the business owner spewing some very anti-capitalist socialist dogma and complaining loudly that the City should not have "allowed" a national-chain competitor to open a store within Sherwood. Say what??? Then, to top it off, the very same business owner flat out like to me about something. So now, I shop at the now-open national-chain competitor where I am greeted with a smile, have never been lied to that I'm aware of, and have not heard one peep of socialist rhetoric from any of the staff members.

So I shake my head in confusion at the people who are protesting Wal-Mart and promising to stop them from opening in Sherwood. I have to ask them... where were you when it was a rumor? Did you attend any of the public meetings about it? Why do you complain now, once the ink is dry on the final contracts?

The Tri-Met folks are probably watching all of this with glee and knowing that very soon they are surely to get the money to build one of their inefficient light-rail lines out to Sherwood because it's become obvious that there are many in the City who are ready to jump on the Agenda 21 train as it rolls in to town.


1 comment:

MAX Redline said...

The Tri-Met folks are probably watching all of this with glee and knowing that very soon they are surely to get the money to build one of their inefficient light-rail lines out to Sherwood

Nope; not gonna happen. Folks are tired of Metro/TriMet and their billion-dollar loot rail lines. We saw what happened in Clackamas County, and folks in Clark and Washington Counties aren't waiting around for the deal to be done between politicians and developers.

Vancouver residents are suing the city in an effort to force them to allow a vote, while over in Tigard, paperwork's been filed to start a petition for a vote on use of city resources for any aspect of light rail. Metro's hot-spit "Southwest Corridor Plan" is going over like a lead balloon.