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Clovis OKs document on Wal-Mart shopping center


Published online on Monday, Jun. 29, 2009
By Marc Benjamin / The Fresno Bee

The Clovis City Council approved certification of an environmental document Monday night for a 490,000-square-foot shopping center that includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The vote was 3-2 with Mayor Harry Armstrong and Council Member Lynne Ashbeck opposed because they did not agree with the urban decay portion of the study.

But the council's approval won't be the end of the debate.  A lawyer for opponents said the city's environmental impact report does not meet standards for water and urban decay. He said opponents will object to the city's approval when the case goes to court for a judge's approval later this year. No court date has been set.

Ashbeck said that the urban decay study did not seem correct to her.  "You can argue all day about the definition of urban decay. I think we have it now," she said.  But other council members supported the urban decay study. Council Member Nathan Magsig said he deferred to city staff's judgment and years of expertise on the issue.

The council also supported the project's site plan and conditions of approval, which prohibit overnight camping and limit Wal-Mart's hours of operation to 5 a.m. to midnight instead of 24 hours.

The shopping center's developer, David Paynter, also agreed to link security cameras to the Clovis Police Department.

Council members delayed approval of the environmental report in May as new information was analyzed about a 95,000-square-foot Winco Foods store being proposed in the city.

The project could face additional legal action because of urban decay and water supply issues, said Brett Jolley, a Stockton lawyer representing shopping center opponents. He said a decision to appeal the approval has not been made.

About 160 people attending Monday's meeting were closely split between opponents and supporters of the project at Highway 168 and Herndon Avenue.

Managers from Food 4 Less and Save Mart said their companies would likely close stores at Chestnut and Shepherd avenues in Fresno, and Bullard and Minnewawa avenues in Clovis, if a supercenter and Winco were to open.

But Jerry Cook, the landowner where a Clovis Wal-Mart store was built 15 years ago at Peach and Shaw avenues, said critics worried then that stores would close when Wal-Mart opened, but more stores and restaurants came to town.

Peg Bos-Ferrara, a former Clovis council member, said she was opposed to Wal-Mart because it would create a "short-time gain for a long-term negative impact."

The City Council "decertified" its environmental document and reversed approval of the project last year after Fresno County Superior Court Judge Wayne Ellison found the report lacking information about water and effects on shopping centers beyond Clovis city limits.

Clovis planning commissioners recommended a revised environmental document for the center to the City Council in April.

The center is to include Kohl's, Petco and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

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