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Judge: Wal-Mart expansion in Rohnert Park needs more study

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Wal-Mart’s plans to expand its Rohnert Park store were set back Thursday after a Sonoma County judge ruled in favor of a challenge to the City Council’s approval of the project.

Judge Rene Chouteau ordered sections of the project’s environmental impact report dealing with traffic mitigation and noise to be redone.

But it was hardly a complete victory for Wal-Mart’s opponents, who filed the lawsuit against the city in September.

The decision dismissed a central complaint by the plaintiffs, the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action, that the council did not have the authority to approve the project.

And it did not address another key argument by opponents that the project violated the city’s general plan.

“I was a little concerned that the substantive issues don’t seem to have been dealt with,” said Rick Luttmann, a Sonoma State University math professor who helped work on the general plan.

“We’re not worried about the EIR per se, we are worried about the project, so we’ll have to see,” Luttmann said.

Still, the ruling effectively stretches out the process for Wal-Mart, which has tried for two years to make its Redwood Drive store a superstore by adding a grocery.

“I see it as a win along the campaign trail,” said Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action.

It was one of a number of groups that opposed the project, which the council approved on a 4-1 vote in August. That decision overturned the city’s planning commission’s earlier rejection of the application, infuriating critics.

“We haven’t stopped it, but we’ve put up multiple roadblocks,” said Marty Bennett, a Santa Rosa Junior College history instructor who helped build the coalition of labor and environmental groups that opposed the expansions.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Tiffany Moffatt said the company is “currently reviewing the ruling to determine its impact.”

Attorneys for Rohnert Park, which could appeal the ruling, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Councilwoman Pam Stafford, who voted in favor of the project, said she hoped Wal-Mart would continue steps to complete the expansion.

“I’m disappointed because they had a legitimate right to add the grocery store,” she said, “and I think the EIR did address those issues.”

In 2009, groups opposed to a Wal-Mart in Roseland won a legal challenge to the Santa Rosa City Council’s approval of the environmental impact report on the project. Wal-Mart then abandoned its five-year bid to open the store.





5 Responses to “Judge: Wal-Mart expansion in Rohnert Park needs more study”

  1. Reality Check says:

    //Supporting Walmart does nothing . . .//

    You may be right, but a lot of ordinary folks differ. They choose to shop there.

    I have mixed feelings about Walmart. But my feelings about people who wish to impose their choices in life on others are not mixed. They need to relearn American history and the lesson that freedom beats all the alternatives.

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  2. RP Mom 2 says:

    Supporting Walmart does nothing to help our econonmy and just makes China richer. It may be cheaper but not in the long run!

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  3. Pearl Alquileres says:

    I used to live in a county with several Wal-Marts. Some “Super”, regular & some just Grocery Stores. (Sam’s Clubs too!) The business regulations in that county were such that “Big Box” stores swarmed like locust!
    But because the business environment was so appealing, ALL types of businesses flourished. Mom & Pop on up.

    Should anyone be allowed to buy property & do as they please? Of course not! But at some point you have to decide if Sonoma County’s economy is going to grow, stagnate or die.
    Personally, I could take any of the above. I loved Sonoma County in the 70’s, sure… lets go back. Sonoma County today ain’t too bad either. But I know what it could be & would like to see that too!

    These environmentalists only care about the environment as a secondary issue. They HATE capitalism pure & simple and they use the environment as a tool. They’re argument against capitalism is so weak they can’t even bring it up so they hide behind the environment like the sleazy, socialist cowards they are.

    If you REALLY care about the environment, sell your Prius, move the City and ride a bike to your “Save the Earth” rallies!
    And whatever you do DON’T HAVE CHILDREN! We don’t need any more humans infesting the earth and destroying the environment.
    Keeping your genes out of the pool would just be a bonus for mankind!

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  4. Mitch Fowler says:

    How long must this be stretched out by the NIMBYs? Is it any wonder that no one pays the slightest attention to genuine environmental issues when everything is blown out of proportion at every level. Are they building a bigger parking lot than is there now? No!

    Look at the “success” this same group had preventing the Roseland Wal-Mart. I’m sure the people who actually still live in Roseland are pleased. What is the environmental impact of an abandoned shopping center covered with graffiti? What is the impact of all those street side orange sellers and flower stands and the massive litter and blight they bring? And the deputies that drive through there are under orders not to arrest illegals, so they camp out waiting for me to drive by at 47 MPH so they can extract some money from an honest citizen.

    Don’t the people who live in these communities get a say? Why do the environmental extremists control our lives? Why do we give then that control?

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  5. Chris J Seamans says:

    Why don’t these coalitions just drive every last company out of Sonoma County and then when there’s nothing left and all the money that should be here in the County is going else where, they can then stand up and agree they screwed up. Sonoma County, in order to make revenue, you need to have the JOBS here and URBAN centers with PEOPLE. I don’t think the Deer and the Mountain Lions can pay taxes…

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