Lawsuit over Walmart project hinges on impacts to neighborhood

Save Atascadero says the city did not do a thorough job of analyzing how the project would affect the surrounding area

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comAugust 17, 2012 

A citizens group that has been actively opposed to bringing a Walmart shopping center to Atascadero’s north side filed a lawsuit this week alleging that the city didn’t adequately analyze how the development and adjacent shopping center could affect the surrounding area.

“Save Atascadero had no alternative but to seek relief in court,” group members said in a statement.

The suit alleges that city leaders were “willfully ignoring the testimony of experts and informed citizens, that highlighted insufficiencies, inconsistencies and inaccuracies” in the environmental review stage of the project and “failed the citizens of Atascadero.”

Save Atascadero, previously called Oppose Wal-Mart, includes local resident and group spokesman Tom Comar and group coordinator Lee Perkins. The suit also names residents Gloria Boyd, Madeline Rothman and Ron Rothman as group members.

Their lawsuit, dated Aug. 9 but received by the city Thursday, specifically alleges that the city failed to adequately respond to public comments on the environmental review and failed to require all feasible alternatives to negative impacts presented in that report. The suit further contends that city officials found that “unavoidably significant” impacts the projects could bring were acceptable, according to the suit.

The group is seeking to stop the project so further study on how the projects could affect the area can be done. It is also seeking attorney’s fees. City officials didn’t return requests for comment but issued a statement saying Atascadero City Attorney Brian Pierik is reviewing the documents. The projects are the Walmart shopping center and an adjacent retail site called The Annex to be built on El Camino Real and Del Rio Road.

Atascadero approved the developments June 26 after nearly seven years of debate, including a failed ballot measure against large big-box stores in town that was also spearheaded by Save Atascadero.

The June approval also certified an environmental report that describes how the projects would affect roads, noise levels and the environment. Fixes to the Del Rio Road overpass and related roadwork were at the crux of the opposition’s concerns: specifically, having the city front nearly half the cost of the stores’ multimillion-dollar road improvements, instead of requiring the two developers to do so, and possibly dipping into the city’s sewer fund to pay for it.

In addition to the city, the lawsuit lists Wal-Mart Stores Inc., The Rottman Group, Montecito Bank and Trust, Engineering Development Associates and Omni Design Group as parties in interest. They are not defendants in the suit, however.

Litigation could push construction of the shopping center by a year or more, Pierik said.

Before the filing, Walmart was slated to open in Atascadero as early as 2014.

Read the lawsuit

Save Atascadero lawsuit against city of Atascadero

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