SAN FRANCISCO – Citizens for Ceres missed the Nov. 14 deadline to petition the California Supreme Court to stop construction of the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center, which would be anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter. 

"On Monday, November 14, Citizens for Ceres decided not to seek review of the Wal-Mart Supercenter project in the California State Supreme Court," Sherri Jacobson, one of the organizers of Citizens for Ceres, told the Northern California Record.

The group has objected to the 300,000-square-foot retail shopping center since 2007. 

After various public hearings and dismissals of public appeals, Citizens of Ceres submitted the first petition with the Stanislaus County Superior Court, alleging the city, the retail developers and Wal-Mart violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Among the allegations were that: the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) certified by the city of Ceres did not adequately take into account the impact of the urban decay that the project would cause; the EIR did not accurately analyze the project’s influence on landfill and recycling facilities, and the report did not outline measures to alleviate these impacts; the EIR did not provide adequate information documenting the probable increase in air pollutants and the effects of those pollutants on human health; and the city’s statement of overriding considerations was not supported by substantial evidence verifying the project’s benefits overshadowed its inevitable environmental impacts.

"...our group found evidence that shows that air pollution is tied to diseases like dementia, and this was not addressed in layman's terms in the Environmental Impact Report." Jacobson said. 

The city of Ceres now will start moving forward with its initial approved construction plans. 

“A third appeal to the California Supreme Court was not filed," Ceres City Attorney Thomas Hallinan told the Northern California Record. "Although the Supreme Court could order review on its own (by December 5), I believe that is extremely unlikely. If that is the case, the litigation is complete except the Court of Appeal will issue a remittitur, sending the case back to Superior Court to allow us as the prevailing parties to recoup our costs for preparing the administrative record."

The Citizens for Ceres' legal efforts have come to a halt, but the organization is still very passionate about educating the public about the environmental hazards of building large retail and commercial properties. 

"We may seek other means to see that clear discussion of the impact of air pollution will be identified and addressed in California going forward," Jacobson said. "We just won't be doing it in the Supreme Court."

With all major legal roadblocks demolished, the city of Ceres and the project's developers are now gearing up to move forward with plans. 

"Wal-Mart can now proceed to submit building permits to the City of Ceres and begin developing structural plans," Tom Westbrook, planning and building manager for the city, told the Northern California Record. "The process of submitting permits and their approval may take up to three to six months."

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017.  

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