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Redlands Daily Facts: Walmart Supercenter development voted into Redlands


Redlands Crossing Project gets 4-1 blessing of City Council before crowd of dissenting residents

REDLANDS -- Before a crowd of residents who packed its chambers to capacity on Tuesday night, the City Council voted 4-1 to approve the Redlands Crossing Project, to be anchored by a Walmart Supercenter, to the disbelief of many who have opposed the project from the start.

Mayor Pete Aguilar was the opposing vote.

The council approved the project with a few conditions, with which Walmart agreed, including the modification of the store's hours of operation from a 24/7 schedule to 6 a.m.-midnight.

Discussion of the project, which has been in the making since 2005, lasted more than two hours.

The Redlands Crossing Project is a 256,614-square-foot retail and commercial center that will be built on 33 acres of land at San Bernardino Avenue and Tennessee Street near Citrus Valley High School.

The city was anticipating a large turnout and possible overflow, and recommended residents watch live council coverage on Redlands TV in case there was no seating available inside council chambers. But for those who wished to be present, city staff opened up conference rooms at City Hall for accommodation.

Public comment on the project brought with it a pretty equal playing field of those for and against the project. Those against the project were not so vocal, wearing "No to Super Walmart" buttons to show their opposition on the matter.

The first public comment was in favor of the store.

"Some of us need a low-cost (shopping) option," said the woman. "We voted for this.
Why does my vote not count? It's not right, and it's not fair."

Redlands resident Keith Osajima dissented, explaining to those in the audience and watching at home that several hundred letters were submitted to the city opposing the project.

Ediberto Flores, a north Redlands activist, also spoke against the store.

"At the last meeting, I had asked if Walmart had ever entertained the thought of questioning staff... and lo and behold, there's an incident in 2010 where a city staff (member) had their job threatened," Flores said. "Any staff person should not live with being bullied by a (corporation). They should be working in a bully-free environment."

Michelle Guajardo, manager of Walmart's Redlands store, again shared her story of success with the chain. Guajardo told the council about how she started with 12 years ago at its Yucca Valley location, and that it changed her life.

Barbara Brown also spoke in favor of the store, once more sharing her story about how Walmart came to her aid when her husband became ill, delaying their trip.

"We came here tonight, even though it's my husband's 88th birthday, to do this for Walmart for the stuff they have done for us," she said.

Brown and her husband lived in a Walmart parking lot for several months while he recovered.

"They just couldn't do enough for us," she said. "We didn't know anyone there as we were on our way to Michigan to meet our friends. But thank goodness Walmart was there and helped us."

Opponents of the shopping center have said at prior discussions on the proposed project that it could bring an increase of crime, traffic and congestion to the area and would sell alcohol within feet of CVHS.

On Tuesday, Nonie Kleinhans blamed the Walmart Supercenter in Victorville for closing three local grocery stores.

"How many Super Walmarts can this area hold?" she asked.

Those in favor the project say they are excited at the possibility of having a supercenter in their backyard as those particular Walmart stores are known for offering of amenities not offered in a regular Walmart store.

Others have said they travel out of the area to shop at other superstores in Highland and Banning, for example.

Design concerns have also had the council scratching their heads, and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Foster recommended the corporation meet with a sub-committee to discuss design concepts that will showcase the store and make it more Redlands-centric. The committee will meet with the store within 30 days, per an agreement made with the store.

Another issue on the table had to do with what will happen to the store's current location on Redlands Boulevard.

Once the new store is built, Walmart employees and services will be moved to the new site.

Many on the council, including Aguilar, worried a new tenant wouldn't be found to take over the store once emptied.

Walmart spokesman Aaron Rios offered up a few solutions that, while it seemed to help, did not ease all of the council's concerns. He recommended that if the building didn't sell within 18 months of the supercenter's opening, the city could purchase the building for city service.

If not sold in 60 months, the building could be demolished, Rios said, but Walmart has no interest to demolishing it.

"We treat our buildings as an asset," he said, adding that Walmart will be financially responsible for the Redlands Boulevard site until it's sold.

Foster, who supported the project, said the impending vacancy was one of his concerns as well as that of several residents who inquired about the building's possible long-term vacancy. Foster also cited the design as another of his reservations on the project.

Councilman Jerry Bean spoke in favor of the store continuing its efforts to build on the sought-after property, which is designated for commercial retail.

If the council did not approve the project, Bean said, Walmart does have options, such as "the doughnut hole," already home to the Citrus Plaza shopping center. If the store were to open there, the city would only see 90 percent of the sales tax and nothing else.

Rios echoed the concern, citing $5.6 million in development impact fees as the amount Redlands would lose if the city didn't approve the project.

In addition to the sub-committee agreement, Walmart will also voluntarily donate $50,000 to a trails project within the city.

The Redlands Crossing Project will also include a retail and commercial center with additional retail stores and fast-food and sit-down restaurants, a service station and other businesses.

Discussions on the project have brought with it mixed reactions.

The council held a public hearing on the project in July at CVHS which drew hundreds. The majority of those in attendance spoke against the project, though some spoke in favor of the store.

The public hearing followed the Planning Commission's 6-1 recommendation in April that the City Council to approve the project. Commissioner Julie Rock opposed the site plan, saying it looked out of place for Redlands.

"The architecture still has no connection to Redlands," she said at the April meeting. "This is a major entry to Redlands, and there are no details or no particular greeting from Redlands or anything to say that this is where you're entering.

"(There) is a major freeway exit here, and if we're going to theme the center with the Walmart architecture, then we are doing our community a disservice."

No one at the April meeting spoke in favor of the project.

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