The Lodi, California News-Sentinel reports this week that a citizens group has warned the Stockton City Council that if Wal-Mart is approved, they will take the city to court. The Stockton Citizens for Sensible Planning charges that the environmental impact report prepared in the 1990s by the developer, AG Spanos, was not adequate for a large-scale retail project like Wal-Mart. The potential lawsuit will assert that the developer is building a Wal-Mart Supercenter with the permission of the Stockton City Council, that is not in accordance with state zoning requirements. The area in dispute was originally planned for about 1.7 million s.f. of office buildings, as well as some commercial land and about 1,000 residential buildings. But the developer switched its intent for the property to include a Wal-Mart discount store, which would then be expanded into a Wal-Mart Supercenter, the citizens group said. “The (planning department) staff, without any input from the Planning Commission and the City Council, changed the project to a retail power center,” the residents said. “That doesn’t comply with the zoning plan of California.” Citizens explained that a Wal-Mart supercenter could bring in twice as much traffic, noise and pollution as an office complex, and no adjustment to the initial environmental report was ever done. The citizen’s lawsuit could tie up the proposed Stockton Wal-Mart for a year or longer. The develooper, however, may continue with plans to build the store, despite the additional impact report remaining undone.
It often happens that a parcel of land will see changes made over many years to the original concept for the land. Residents are right to point out that the original use for the Stockton land has been dramatically changed, and impact statements for an office complex in 1990 is not at all the same as a retail power center more than a decade later. But the Stockton Planning Commission didn’t seem to notice the difference. Now the city may find itself in court, rather than in Aisle 5 of Wal-Mart.