As expected, Wal-Mart has appealed a recent court decision that upheld the city of Turlock’s ban against supercenters. The Good Neighbor company’s decision means that taxpayers in Turlock will continue to pay legal fees to fight Wal-Mart into the appeals level. And why is Wal-Mart continuing the appeal this case? “We felt that there were more merits to the case and we are looking forward to how the appellate court will rule on the case,” a Wal-Mart official said. So the retailer is “looking forward” to fighting the city’s rejection of their superstore. As reported earlier, a Superior Court ruled in December that the Turlock ordinance, which bans retail stores in excess of 100,000 s.f. that devote more than 5% of total floor space to non-taxable items like groceries, is legal. The ordinance has been on the books since January of 2004. “When a Supercenter opens it is designed for daily trips for everybody. It creates far more daily trips and therefore more traffic gridlock,” Turlock Mayor Curt Andre told the media. “It’s never been about giving a commercial advantage to one business over another. It’s about giving the proper location to the proper stores.” Wal-Mart also claims that city officials failed to follow the proper environmental review for its store under the California Environmental Quality Act. The Superior court ruled that Turlock did not have to review the environmental impacts of adding a grocery component to a discount store. Wal-Mart has also filed a lawsuit in federal court against Turlock, charging that the city was “singling out Wal-Mart and not allowing us to compete fairly in a market.”
Wal-Mart is pursing this case because a verdict in its favor could impact similar ordinances that exist in other California cities and towns, and in other states. The Turlock ordinance is more complicated than a simple cap on the size of buildings, because it affects only stores with large grocery components, and exempts membership clubs. Many other communities have adopted simple size caps. Much in the way zoning codes regulate height, size caps regulate the mass of a store. See “Turlock” and “caps” for stories related to this lawsuit.