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Langer explains Walmart decision, rebukes social media attacks

The Sherwood City Council member says he violated no conflict of interest laws and is appalled by many of the attacks he's seen on social media


by: RAY PITZ - Matt Langer, the spokesman for his family's land dealings and a member of the Sherwood City Council, says he's offended by some of his critics on social media, who say his involvement is a conflict of interest.It’s been a tough month for Matt Langer and his family to say the least.

As the public face of Langer Family LLC, he’s had to contend with what he says are numerous accusations and untruths about his involvement in a proposed Walmart planned to open in Sherwood next year.

On May 6, Langer and Gramor Development president Barry Cain officially announced plans to build a 145,000-square-foot Walmart on Langer Farms Parkway, part of the more expansive Sherwood Town Center shopping complex.

Less than two weeks later, on May 17, a group called the Sherwood Community Action Committee filed a petition to recall Langer, saying that his involvement was a conflict of interest.

Langer said he was surprised by the recall petition “because there’s no unethical actions here,” pointing out that the decisions regarding how the Walmart property was zoned were made before he ran unopposed for the council in 2010.

“At that point I knew our projects wouldn’t have to go through council so that there wouldn’t be a conflict of interest,” he said.

The recall effort requires 704 signatures collected by Aug. 15 in order to refer it to the ballot.

The proposed Walmart supercenter is the second planned for the area, with a smaller store planned to open in Tigard next year.

Several Facebook sites have popped up to oppose locating the national retailer in Sherwood, which Langer said was unexpected.

“I was surprised it erupted so quickly,” he said. “I’m not surprised there’s some negative sentiment about it.”

Still, Langer said he was shocked by the attacks on his name and the Langer family.

“The personal attacks, that’s been really difficult,” said Langer, whose family has lived in the city since 1879. “Holy cow, the things you read on Facebook, that’s so outlandish.”

The official spokesman for the 17-member Langer Family LLC, Langer said he had no official vote on whether Walmart would be selected as the anchor for the 20-acre shopping complex or not.

After his election to a council seat, Langer said he attended ethics training provided by the League of Oregon Cities, saying to those providing the training he wanted to avoid any accusations of conflicts of interest in the future based on his family’s property holdings.

He has recused himself three times when it comes to issues involving Langer properties, he said.

Since the Walmart announcement, Langer said he’s been “crucified” by some for not announcing who the new tenant for the shopping complex would be but points out that he was legally bound not to reveal the deal until all the paper work was signed with Walmart. That occurred on Friday, May 3, just days before his Monday, May 6, announcement that the retailer would be moving to town.

Langer’s wife Nikki said it’s particularly hard to listen to some of the comments because her husband and family are connected so strongly to the community.

“He’s part of the community,” said Nikki Langer. “That’s why he volunteers dozens and dozens of hours.”

The Langer planned unit development was originally approved in 1995 when Langer was still a student at Oregon State University studying construction engineering management, he said. The city reconfirmed the zoning in 2007, when he was a Happy Valley resident.

What isn’t known by many is that finding a large box anchor for the site has been a 15-year process, and that the Langer family sought to locate a Fred Meyer in the city at least twice.

In the late 1990s, the city turned down locating a Fred Meyer in Sherwood, said Langer. Then, in the late 2000s, Fred Meyer pulled the plug on locating on Langer property after it was far into the process, according to Langer.

“We thought for sure it was a done deal,” he said.



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