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Mendocino County Today: March 16, 2012

IN SOMEWHAT of a surprise, the Ukiah City Planning Commission unanimously refused to approve the proposed Walmart expansion plan Wednesday night, oddly combining complaints about inadequate landscaping with much more serious likely job loss from closure of other Ukiah stores and unavoidable traffic snarls on Highway 101. Although some people have said that Walmart had an option to expand built into their original permit from back in the 90s, it appears that what Walmart is now proposing may exceed what that option covered. The Ukiah Planning Commissioners were unanimous in saying that the proposed project provided no tangible benefits to Ukiah and had several negatives. The proposed expansion would have included a 24/7 superstore with groceries, a vision center and a medical clinic. Critics said that such a store would make take away too much business from existing Ukiah stores and small businesses, causing some of them to close. They also cited a clear traffic problem the expansion would cause on the off-ramp off Highway 101 at Talmage Road, the prime entrance to the existing Walmart business park area. Even with present traffic there are times when the traffic on the off-ramp backs up waiting for the light to turn left into Walmart. With the expansion, there’s no question that the backup would extend all the way onto the freeway creating serious traffic hazards. There’s no money in the Walmart plan for the major roadwork that would be required to fix the off-ramp backup problem. Walmart had also proposed using a plastic-grass hybrid system known as “grasspave” on about 20% of the land as “landscaping.” “Grasspave is basically sod mounted on a porous plastic grid-backing which looks like a smooth lawn when it’s installed. It’s better than asphalt because it at least allows water to percolate through it. But it’s not “landscaping.” Walmart is expected to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the Ukiah City Council.

A COUNTY-WIDE plastic bag ban is on the Board of Supervisors agenda for March 27 — actually an environmental impact report, in preparation for a bag ban. If enacted the plastic bag ban would prohibit plastic “carry-out” bags from being given to customers in the unincorporated areas of Mendocino County. It would also require that stores charge customers at least ten cents for paper carry-out bags. (It would not affect clear plastic produce bags and such, only the carry-out bags.) Similar ordinances are already under consideration in Willits, Fort Bragg and Ukiah. Proponents hope that the ban will reduce roadside litter by encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags, and reduce wildlife impacts of roadside plastic bags.

“TWITTER is unspeakably irritating,” novelist Jonathan Franzen told the London Guardian recently. “Twitter stands for everything I oppose. It's hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters. It's like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it's like writing a novel without the letter ‘P.’ It's the ultimate irresponsible medium. People I care about are readers, particularly serious readers and writers; these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.”

FRANZEN also dissed Facebook: “We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don't have to have contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It's all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To ‘friend’ a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.”

PLASTIC BAGS are a big source of litter

And expanding Walmart makes most Ukiahans bitter

At least the bag ban

And the expansion plan

Are not being debated on Twitter.

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