“I haven’t had any death threats,” says Polson City Councilman Tom Corse, when asked about reactions to the council’s 4-2 decision June 29 to approve a zoning change that will allow Wal-Mart to build a 156,000-square-foot Supercenter in Polson.
The Polson City-County Planning Board had recommended a denial of the zoning change, and, according to the Missoulian, opponents of the change outnumbered proponents at the June 29 public hearing 2 to 1.
Corse, who voted for the change, says the council “did what most of the people in Lake County wanted to see happen.”
Regarding opposition at the meeting, Corse says people who are against things tend to be more active.
Corse also says that the compromise zoning change proposed by councilman Fred Funke sufficiently alleviates the planning board’s concerns.
The compromise, which Funke outlined in his motion to approve the overall zoning change, would have kept one nine-acre parcel of the Wal-Mart property residential. According to its proposal, Wal-Mart had not intended to build on that property and was presumably going to sell it to another commercial developer.
“It was a very odd motion to make,” says Greg Hertz, one of the founders of Lake County First, a Polson group that formed to oppose the Supercenter. He notes that Wal-Mart representatives raised no questions about the proposed compromise, and that there was no discussion of it by the council.
“It seems like they reached an agreement beforehand,” Hertz says.
In fact, they had. Corse confirms that just before the council meeting, one of the councilmen asked the Wal-Mart representatives what they thought about “excluding the nine-acre parcel.”
The Wal-Mart reps, Corse says, responded that it was “not a bad idea.”
Councilman Mark MacDonald, who voted against the zoning change twice, once in his capacity as a councilman and once as a member of Polson’s planning board, says he was “not privileged to that conversation.”
“They probably knew I would go against it,” he says, because the compromise, in his opinion, doesn’t address the planning board’s concerns about strip development.
Wal-Mart seems to have won for now, but Hertz says the fight may not be over yet, as the council’s decision will likely be appealed in district court.