A deal approved in court this past week has ended the contentious battle in Bakersfield, California over a Wal-Mart supercenter that had to stop work with the store half-built. The developer, Lee Jamieson, and the citizen’s group, Bakersfield Citizens for Local Control, agreed that nothing will happen on the site until June 1, 2006. The Lowe’s home improvement center already on the property will stay open, but the Wal-Mart will stay boarded up, and the developer will not build any new stores on the site. The agreement notes that next June, the city of Bakersfield has to vote on an environmental report. The city approved the project back in February of 2003, but citizens challenged the way the process was conducted, took their case to the 5th District Court of Appeals, and the court overturned the first city approval, saying the city had done a poor job of figuring out if building the project would harm the environment. At the same time, the court also overturned approval for a second Wal-Mart Supercenter project in Bakersfield, this one proposed by Castle & Cooke. That case was also in court this week, but the Californian newspaper reports that the two sides are not close to an agreement.
If you don’t fight, you can’t win. That’s the lesson from Bakersfield. The image of a Wal-Mart supercenter sitting half done in Bakersfield for another year, while the city is forced to go back to square one and do the review according to the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act, is a major victory for the citizens in Bakersfield. If they had not gone to court, the supercenter would be built and open by now. Instead, the developer got major legal bills, and a frozen project. For earlier stories on Bakersfield, search Newsflash by the city’s name.