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Plan to thwart Wal-Mart fizzles

Staff writer

The Lumberyard owner Jon Hefley was tired of speaking against Wal-Mart, and he thought he had found a way to act.

Hefley proposed a contract to Hillsboro City Council on the pretense that Wal-Mart’s contract with the city was void, and that he could purchase a plot of land in the middle of where Wal-Mart had intended to build a Neighborhood Market. The Hillsboro City Council ruled differently.

Through United Partnership, Hefley helped author a contract that would supersede the Wal-Mart contract, which he thought was void because it had been more than 20 days since the last government action.

“The purpose of this purchase contract is to keep Wal-Mart from building their project,” City Administrator Larry Paine wrote in an email to council and Mayor Delores Dalke meant to provide background on the issue.

Paine’s recommendation in that email was to approve the contract on a contingent basis, meaning it would go through should Wal-Mart’s contract fall through. Hillsboro Economic Development Director Clint Seibel explained that the contract was not subject to a contingency, thus changing Paine’s recommended action.

“It’s (Hefley’s) understanding that our contract (with Wal-Mart) is void,” Seibel explained to the council Tuesday.

Seibel presented the contract, which had a $500 check attached to it as a down payment, to the city council for approval; the council tabled the issue with intent to return the check to Hefley.

When contacted, Hefley offered no comment on the situation, but was unsurprised when told of the council’s decision.

Hefley submitted the plan despite knowing Wal-Mart already had a contract with the city.

Hefley’s interpretation of the “last government action” was when the utility easement was vacated in May. Paine said that was not the case.

“Not everyone understands the last governmental approval is the approval of the building permit,” he said. “Once we’re in a position to review that, then closing will occur.”

Had Hefley’s view been correct, the city would have had the same dilemma it had with Wal-Mart — even if there was desire to refuse business, a reasonable offer cannot by law be refused by a city on a plot of land that’s up for sale.

Hefley did not specify in his contract how he would have used the lot.

“Does he intend to put a business on that lot?” councilman Bob Watson asked.

“The contract reads that he understands that it’s highway-commercial and that a facility shall be constructed to establish within 24 months on or before Nov. 1, if he does not, we have the right to purchase it back,” Seibel said. “He has made no declaration as to putting a business out there.”

The street leading to 605 Orchard Drive, where Wal-Mart is to be built, is platted but not paved. The contract stated there was no obligation on behalf of the city to complete the street, had Hefley’s purchase gone through.

“Without a plan for a real business entity in that, it just looks a little, um…” Paine trailed off.

“Premature?” Seibel offered.

“That’ll work, but it’s not what I was trying to come up with,” Paine said. “It’s a little nicer word, too.”

In other business:

  • Council approved the creation of a field of interest Community Foundation endowment fund for the Hillsboro Development Corporation, Inc. to fund community projects through donations.
  • The Public Building Commission approved a $26,550 bid to remove asbestos from the boiler room of Hillsboro Community Hospital.

Last modified Sept. 24, 2014

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