Wal-Mart, the giant retailer whose bid to supersize its Rohnert Park store by adding a grocery section was rejected by the city’s Planning Commission, has appealed that decision to the City Council.
The appeal states that the project is “fully consistent with the General Plan” and argues that the commission was wrong to turn down the project.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Angela Stoner, who represented the Arkansas-based company at the commission’s decisive April hearing, did not respond Wednesday to calls seeking comment.
Opponents quickly vowed to mount an assault on the application similar to the one that succeeded in April — arguing the expansion will push more workers out of jobs than it will create, and that any jobs that might be created at Wal-Mart would be low-paying jobs.
“We definitely are going to do a major mobilization for the hearing, and not just in the city, but in the county,” said Marty Bennett, co-chairman of the Sonoma County Living Wage Coalition, which campaigns for wages that pay workers enough to be able to live in the area.
The company’s environmental impact report said that the bulk of Supercenter shoppers would be “captured” from nearby competitors. Sonoma County-based Pacific Market, with a store about the size of the proposed Wal-Mart expansion, would be most threatened by the expansion, the report said.
The expansion would add about 32,000 square feet to the existing store, which sits on the west side of Highway 101.
The Rohnert Park council has 60 days to hear the appeal — unless both parties agree to an extension — and it can review only the same application and materials as the commission did, said Marilyn Ponton, the city’s planning and building manager.
She said the staff report to the council to be prepared to accompany the appeal will also analyze the correctness of the commission’s decision.
“We will discuss what their discussion was and what they voted on to deny and go back to assess how that relates to our code and discuss that with our city council,” Ponton said.
The planning commission, in rejecting Wal-Mart’s application, expressed concerns that the Supercenter would displace employees of competing groceries.
The commissioners, who unanimously turned down the application, concluded that the store would not conform to the city’s general plan, which supports grocery stores in neighborhoods and says “… Rohnert Park’s residential population can support only a limited number of supermarkets.”