FRESNO – The 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno ruled last month in favor of the city of Tehachapi for the proposed building of a Walmart. The appeal came after the city addressed several environmental concerns about the project.
The case was originally brought to court in 2011 by the group Tehachapi First over environmental concerns involving the project. Per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the city of Tehachapi released an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
In 2012, Kern County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Twisselman issued a peremptory writ of mandate and judgment requiring the city to address several issues with the report.
“There were three topics of the 14 in the California Environmental Quality Act there were issues with, which were water, traffic and noise,” Jay Schlosser, development services director of city of Tehachapi, told the Northern California Record.
The city released a revised EIR.
“In order to comply with the peremptory writ of mandate and judgment, the city prepared the revised EIR that addressed the cumulative water supply impacts, cumulative noise impacts and cumulative traffic impact analyses that were found to be deficient,” he said.
Twisselman approved the changes but Tehachapi appealed his decision.
The city was easily able to ratify traffic and rework the consumption, but noise ended up being the biggest issue.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs brought forward three noise complaints: “the location on residential lots where measurements were taken to establish the baseline noise level,” “the revised EIR’s decision to evaluate roadway segments containing hotels by using the noise thresholds applicable to commercial property, rather than residential property,” and “the standards or thresholds used to determine whether cumulative noise impacts were significant.”
The court approved the city’s changes to its EIR and green lighted the project. The plaintiffs have less than a month to appeal the decision.
Schlosser talked about the importance of getting the 165,000-square-foot Walmart to the city.
“We lose 50 percent of our retail dollars to outside cities because we’re kind of remote,” Schlosser said.
The city performed economic analysis and found the Walmart would be very unlikely to negatively impact surrounding businesses except for two supermarkets.
Not only could money stay in the city, traffic in and out of the city could be reduced as well.
“On an environmental level, there were some positive impacts because we get quite a few cars leaving the area every day,” Schlosser said.
In additional to the lawsuit with Tehachapi First, Schlosser has also heard citizens forming negative opinions and is frustrated that people don’t read the reports the city has written.
“We are actually looking at these things and considering the impact,” Schlosser said. “I strongly suggest people read the reports before forming an opinion.”
Schlosser said despite some of the negative attention the proposed Walmart has gotten, he’s also heard some positive feedback.
“There have been no reports commissioned by the city, but anecdotally there seems to be quite a bit of community support,” Schlosser said.