Wal-Mart’s efforts to build a supercenter in Santa Fe have been like a watched pot. But this week the controversial plan is boiling over. Opponents have filed charges in court that the “Entrada Contenta” project approval was legally flawed. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, three city councilors who opposed the project claim that they asked the city to consider economic, social and other factors raised by Wal-Mart opponents , but were prevented from doing so on bad legal advice from the then City Attorney. One of the councilors, David Coss, is now Mayor of Santa Fe. The plaintiffs are asking District Court to send the matter back to the City Council for a “full and complete deliberation of all issues inherent in adding another Wal-Mart to the community.” The plaintiffs also claim that the 5-3 vote in favor of the superstore was illegal, because one councilor who was in favor of Wal-Mart, then voted against it so that the vote could be reconsidered. During reconsideration, Mayor Larry Delgado also switched his vote to favor the project. Opponents argue that under parliamentary rules, only someone who voted in the majority could ask for reconsideration, and since the vote was a 4-4 tie, there was no majority. “The problem was that Robert’s Rules of Order didn’t allow him to change his vote to become a member of the majority ,” the lawsuit states, asking the courts to invalidate the motion for reconsideration. The lawsuit also says the scope of review of the huge project was improperly limited. The suit also charges that the consideration of the traffic plan was flawed, and that the annexation of the Wal-Mart parcel never had a proper development plan submitted into the record. If the project is sent back to the City Council, it will face a new Council, since an election several weeks ago has change the composition of the board.
Residents often ask: “Is it worth taking Wal-Mart to court?” I always reply, “Yes, litigation is a tool that developers use constantly, so citizens should do the same to level the playing field.” In addition, litigation slows down the project, and gives the community some chance to emerge from the process with a victory, whereas you have a 100% chance of losing if you skip an appeal. Litigation can be expensive, which gives developers an upper hand, since it is easier for them to mount an appeal. But if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in this case, the future of the project is uncertain, because it would have to go back to the new city council for a vote, where 4 votes could kill it.