On November 11, 2007 Sprawl-Busters wrote that the Solano County, California Airport Land Use Commission had ruled that a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter along the flight path of Travis Air Force Base would pose a safety threat to shoppers. By a 5-2 vote, the commission decided that the 230,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, with gas station, was “inconsistent” with the Travis AFB Land Use Compatibility Plan for “safety” reasons. Commission chair John Foster said the county’s assertion that the Wal-Mart project would be within the safety limits allowed by the air base plan was wrong, and said the “risk” to residents was too great to approve the project inside the air base’s “safety buffer zone.” But roughly three months later, on February 12, 2008, Wal-Mart got another chance to fly. In a unanimous decision, the Suisun City Council voted to overturn the Solano Airport Land Use Commission, and approve the Wal-Mart Supercenter. That controversial vote clearly was worked out before the meeting, because on the Council’s agenda was Resolution 2008-13 to override the Airport Commission. Because of concerns about Wal-Mart building stores, and then leaving them, the Council got Wal-Mart to agree to pay the city at least $300,000 to cover the costs of demolishing the building, although the city might find other uses for the structure. The demolition agreement says that if the store closes and goes dark for 36 months, Wal-Mart will demolish the building or give the city payment for demolishing it. “That agreement is designed to ease fears about future blight,” a city official noted. Opponents of the plan, the Suisun Alliance, told the media right after the City Council vote that they were considering litigation against the City Commission, and a recall effort against the five individual members of the Council. This week, the Suisun Alliance followed through on their statement, and filed a lawsuit against Suisun City, charging that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when approving a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The case will be heard in Solano County Superior Court by Judge Paul Beeman. The Suisun Alliance, said the lawsuit is likely to take two or three months before being heard. The suit claims the city ignored the CEQA in environmental documents and failed to address, evaluate and mitigate several impacts on the site. The Suisun Alliance says the project violates the Travis AFB Land Use Compatibility Plan, fails to consider a jet-fuel pipeline in the area, and fails to consider the potential for urban decay directly caused by two Wal-Mart stores in the area. The issue of urban decay was a key issue in lawsuits that tied up two Wal-Mart supercenters in Bakersfield, California. (A court ruling this week finally cleared those two half-built Wal-Mart to continue construction work.)
The Suisun Alliance issued a press release after the City Council vote in Februar, vowing to fight on and blasting the council for what they said was its decision to build in an unsafe area. What had been a victory over Wal-Mart in November, now was a defeat for the community. “This is the wrong development at the wrong location,” Phil Tucker, director of California Healthy Communities, a project of the Tides Center, was quoted as saying in November. Sprawl-Busters noted in November that Wal-Mart would try to climb back into the cockpit and attempt another fly-over before the Suisun City Council. A Wal-Mart supercenter is incompatible with Suisun’s small town character. It will kill the city’s New Urbanist dreams. The Airport Land Use Commission was right: there is no need to compromise public safety for another Wal-Mart. The Suisun Alliance is working to block Wal-Mart plans on the runway! Readers are urged to email the citizen’s group at [email protected] and offer to make a contribution towards their legal funds, to help them clip this Wal-Mart’s wings.