The Galt Herald : Walmart One Step Closer

by Liza Klagenberg on February 5, 2011

I know there’s many points of view on this, but we have to have jobs and sales tax revenue in Galt! And, from a ‘green’ point of view, how many thousands of gallons of gas will it save when Galtonians are not driving to Lodi or Elk Grove??? Overall, the benefits are just too big and for too many people to ignore.
The Galt Herald : Feature Story.

Galt Walmart step closer to done deal

Plans to construct a 133,000-square-foot Walmart in Galt took a giant leap forward, clearing the first legal challenge to the project in Sacramento Superior Court last week.
Court rejects majority of challenges to CEQA documents
By Rachael Ackerman – Herald Editor
Wednesday, February 2, 2011 5:58 PM CST
Plans to construct a 133,000-square-foot Walmart in Galt took a giant leap forward this week, as a superior court judge has ruled that the project’s environmental documents do not have to be done over.

The documents, legally required by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) for all projects of this size, were challenged by a group of local residents called Galt Citizens for Sensible Planning.

Davis attorney William Kopper, who is known for pursuing cases against Walmart up and down the state of California, represents the group, and while the city and Walmart are celebrating their apparent victory in court, Kopper says his side won the case.

“The ruling is very good news for the city,” said Galt City Attorney Steven Rudolph. “The court made it clear that the city does not need to redo the EIR process and does not need to set aside any project approvals or suspend construction. The court has simply required additional analysis of the noise impacts, which could lead to additional mitigation measures. This one remaining issue is very manageable.”

Kopper disagrees.

“The petitioners won the case,” said Kopper, who did not elaborate. “However, there are certain issues that we didn’t win that are important. The petitioners may file an appeal on those issues, but no decision has been reached.”

The Galt Citizens for Sensible Planning have 60 days from the formal notice of entry of the order to file an appeal.

Saying the city prevailed on over 90 percent of the challenges issued to the EIR documents, Rudolph characterized the ruling as a definite step forward for the project.

“In summary, the city and Walmart prevailed on every point except one: the court found the noise analysis deficient and found the city did not comply with its own noise ordinance concerning forklift back-up beepers,” said Rudolph. “Additionally, in order to address air quality issues, the court also directed that the forklifts used by Walmart on site be model 2010 or newer, which is not a major issue and easily addressed.”

Walmart representative Angela Stoner was also pleased with the court’s ruling.

“Walmart is pleased with the court’s ruling,” said Stoner. “This decision clears the way for Walmart to create 300 new jobs, as well as an opportunity for Galt residents to keep their sales tax dollars local. We appreciate the overwhelming support we have received from Galt residents and look forward to offering our customers increased choice and lower prices for everyday necessities.”

Galt Mayor Barbara Payne said the issue of when Galt will get a Walmart has been at the top of resident concern since she has been involved in local politics.

“I have had more questions from citizens regarding when Walmart will come to Galt than any other issue. Having the issue tied up in court has disappointed many people. There is great anticipation,” said Payne, who said she feels the remaining noise issue will be readily handled so the project can move forward. “There is a great anticipation of the store providing shopping in Galt and, of course, the revenue the Walmart would bring would be important to the city.”

Galt City Councilman Mark Crews said he is very happy with the court ruling and looks forward to breaking ground.

“This is one of many projects that will be a huge benefit to the city of Galt,” said Crews. “It will bring needed income to the city, jobs, and will be an important step, one of many more to come, toward our ultimate goal of providing shopping/services for our citizens so they aren’t forced to go to other cities.”

So, what does the ruling mean to the future of a Galt Walmart?

“The city expects to complete the revised noise analysis within the next 120 days and, after city council approval, to present the revised analysis to the court for its approval,” said Rudolph. “As to an ultimate timeline, it depends on whether an appeal is filed and the outcome of the appeal. If an appeal is filed and the city prevails, then I would expect Walmart to break ground in spring of 2012.”

In terms of a set-in-stone timeline to get the project started, Stoner said that has not been determined.

“I do not have information on timelines at this time, but I can tell you a store of this size will take approximately 10-12 months to complete once we start construction,” said Stoner. “We will be happy to provide updates as the construction process begins.”

To view a complete copy of the ruling, simply call the Galt City Clerk’s Office at (209) 366-7130 or visit them at 380 Civic Drive, and make a records request for the ruling. Copy fees do apply.

Galt Walmart Project History

September 2007: Walmart submits application to construct project on Twin Cities Road

April 4, 2008: City issues Notice of Preparation for the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

April 23, 2009: Public scoping session

Dec. 10, 2009: City releases Draft EIR for public comment

March 15, 2010: City releases project’s final EIR

March 25, 2010: Galt Planning Commission holds public hearing on Walmart application for a Conditional Use Permit and certification of EIR – certifies EIR, grants conditional use permit, but requests modification of hours of operation

April 2010: Galt Citizens for Sensible Planning files appeal to Galt City Council/Walmart files appeal based on hours of operation

April 20, 2010: Council holds public hearing – votes 3-2 to deny Petitioner’s appeal/grants Walmart appeal to retain original hours

May 17, 2010: petitioners file for writ of mandate in superior court to stop the project based on alleged CEQA and city Big Box ordinance violations

Dec. 10, 2010: Hearing in Sacramento Superior Court

Jan. 31, 2011: Court issues ruling

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