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In Wal-Mart dispute, appeals court sides with city of Atascadero

This view of the Del Rio Road overpass over Highway 101 in Atascadero looks toward El Camino Real and the site of the proposed Walmart store in 2012.
This view of the Del Rio Road overpass over Highway 101 in Atascadero looks toward El Camino Real and the site of the proposed Walmart store in 2012. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Justices with California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura have ruled in favor of the city of Atascadero in a long-running dispute over local officials’ approval of a Wal-Mart store and adjacent retail complex.

Atascadero “looks forward with great anticipation to this project now proceeding to completion,” Mayor Tom O’Malley said in a news release announcing the decision, which was handed down Tuesday.

Debate over whether a Wal-Mart was right for Atascadero has lasted nearly a decade.

The citizens group Save Atascadero, which has sought to stop the project so it could undergo further review, has until Aug. 18 to file a petition for review with the California Supreme Court.

The Atascadero City Council approved the retail giant’s shopping center, as well as retail complex called The Annex, in summer 2012.

Both projects include shopping, dining and some housing at El Camino Real and Del Rio Road.

After the city’s approval, Save Atascadero sued the city, claiming Atascadero had violated state environmental laws by not fully vetting the projects. A year later, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge ruled that the city wasn’t in violation.

Save Atascadero then appealed. Its lawsuit aims to stop the centers from being built so further study of their impacts to roads and air quality can be done.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Delia Garcia called the ruling a victory for Atascadero residents.

“Our Atascadero customers are looking for convenience and affordability and we look forward to offering them a new location for fresh, affordable groceries and value-priced merchandise closer to where they live and work,” she said.

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