Calif. SC refuses to hear appeal of planned Walmart distribution center

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Mar 14, 2013

MERCED, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- The California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to hear an appeal filed by opponents of a planned Walmart distribution center in a Northern California city.

The court's denial ends a nearly four-year-long court battle over the project, a 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.

In January, the plaintiffs in the case, a group of city residents and the Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth, filed their final appeal with the state's high court.

They claimed 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 took 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.

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.

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, according to the city.

Walmart has said it will break ground on the center only after the litigation has been resolved.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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