Wal-Mart has suffered a setback in their plans to build a 220,700 s.f. superstore in Redding, California. A Shasta County Superior Court judge has overturned a 2003 city permit letting Wal-Mart nearly double the size of its store, converting it from a discount store into a supercenter. The court ruled that the city must draft an environmental impact report (EIR)dealing with the noise and traffic that will be caused by the significantly large facility. The EIR also must include a study showing whether Redding can absorb another large discount grocer without losing nearby supermarkets and other businesses. The proposed supercenter, according to the Record Searchlight, would add 92,700 square feet to the existing Wal-Mart on Dana Drive. Residents complained that the store expansion would push the building’s loading docks to within 25 feet of existing duplex homes in the area. Redding residents took Wal-Mart to court in December to order more environmental review for the Supercenter, which won narrow City Council approval. Opponents “have presented substantial evidence … that the Wal-Mart Supercenter may cause economic blight in the city,” Superior Court Judge James Ruggiero wrote in his June 21 order. The plaintiffs claim that judges in five other counties have ordered similar economic impact studies to be conducted, including Kern and Fresno counties. “The rule of thumb seems to be, when a Wal-Mart Supercenter opens, two supermarkets and other stores close,” the resident’s attorney told the newspaper. The judge denied opponents’ claims that the Wal-Mart approval violated the city’s general plan or the county’s air quality requirements. The court ruling now throws off Wal-Mart’s timetable for approval, and requires the city to conduct further studies.
If the studies ordered by the judge are not independently performed, the results will provide little comfort to the residents. It is simply unacceptable to put loading docks 25 feet from existing homes. The solution is simple: dramatically downsize the store. The original Wal-Mart in Redding is larger than two football fields. Wal-Mart elsewhere has proposed supercenters less than 100,000 s.f., so the solution in Redding is for the company to reconfigure its existing store to sell groceries, and leave the neighbors unchanged. This expansion proposal is clearly for the convenience of the company only, and to the detriment of everyone else who lives near the project. An economic impact study will likely show that existing grocery stores will lose sales to Wal-Mart, but no real economic growth will come to Redding. Building more grocery stores in Redding will not make people in town any hungrier.