Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 18, 2013, 3:33pm

MERCED, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- Opponents of a planned Walmart distribution center in a Northern California city have reportedly filed an appeal with the California Supreme Court.

Walmart plans to build the 1.2 million square-foot warehouse and distribution center on Childs Avenue in the University Industrial Park in Merced. The site is on land zoned for industrial use near the Mission Interchange.

In September 2009, after a public hearing that extended over four days and nights, the Merced City Council voted 6-1 to approve the construction of the distribution center.

The center is expected initially to employ about 600 people and ultimately it could employ 1,200 workers. The 1,200 jobs could lower Merced County's jobless rate of 14.7 percent by a full percentage point.

The plaintiffs in the case are a group of city residents and the Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth.

They claim the city of Merced's Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, on the project did not adequately assess the center's impacts on air quality, hydrology and water quality, traffic, urban decay, visual impacts, and greenhouse gases and global climate change.

The plaintiffs also take issue with some of the processes the city used in creating the EIR.

In November, the state's Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the city.

The Fresno court's unanimous decision found no problems with the EIR.

The city also won the initial case in superior court brought by MARG and the other plaintiffs.

Kyle Stockard, a local resident and lead plaintiff, told the Merced Sun-Star Thursday that the group thinks it will get a "fairer shake" if the case is heard at the state Supreme Court level.

"If we can get it open there, I think we have a good shot," he said.

According to the newspaper, the state's high court is expected to announce whether it will hear the case by the beginning of April.

The city of Merced has worked on the project since 2002.

According to its website, the city did not offer any financial subsidy, relief, property tax rebates, fee waivers, sales tax rebates or tax-free land for the project. Walmart is paying all of the required fees, which are expected to be about $3 million.

Area schools, the city says, are expected to receive more than $400,000 in fees from the project.

According to the city, the distribution center would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and generate an estimated 450 truck trips into and out of the facility each day.

The trucks will leave from one of the two gates on Gerard Avenue, going to the Campus Parkway and then onto Highway 99.

City Manager John Bramble told the Sun-Star that the group's decision to appeal to the state's high court was a "waste of taxpayer money."

"The question they ask of the Supreme Court is no different of what they've asked of the appellate court," he said. "They've got a pretty loud and clear response from that court. So I don't know why the Supreme Court would take up the case."

According to the newspaper, Walmart has said it will break ground only after the litigation has been resolved.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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