Business

Friday, Apr 27 2012 06:13 PM

Judge finds review of Tehachapi Walmart plans inadequate

BY ED GORDON Tehachapi News

If Walmart wants to go forward with a proposed super center in Tehachapi, the city will have to have a new environmental impact report prepared.

After hearing arguments from the city and Tehachapi First -- a citizens group created to oppose Walmart -- Kern County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Twisselman ruled Friday that the project's EIR is inadequate.

"Substantial evidence does not support the city's contention that there was a good-faith effort for full disclosure with a reasoned analysis of environmental consequences" for the project, he said.

The issues, Twisselman said, concerned water supply, noise and traffic. He's the same judge who has halted and then allowed to resume Walmart construction in Bakersfield, also finding environmental review flaws.

David James, community development director for the city of Tehachapi, said he couldn't comment on the judge's ruling until after conferring with other city staff. Walmart could not immediately be reached for comment.

But Shannon Turner of Tehachapi First said the organization "is happy with the decision, the outcome and the judgment that has come down. We feel that (state environmental review) laws need to be upheld for the best of all of our community. Whether you want the Walmart or not, you want the city to do what is right for the community."

Henry Schaeffer, owner of Henry's Home-4-Less building supply store and the one who paid the $1,561 fee required to appeal the Jan. 31, 2011, Tehachapi Planning Commission approval of the Walmart project, attended Friday's court hearing.

"I think the more important fact (is) that the city doesn't care about the impact (of Walmart), they're only interested in their own revenue," Schaeffer said Friday afternoon. "(They're not interested) in the adverse impact that comes to the citizens and that is frightening."

"We raised three fundamental issues about the EIR," said John Farrow, attorney for Tehachapi First. "We said the traffic analysis failed to disclose all of the significant impacts, we said the water analysis was limited in scope and we said the noise was fundamentally flawed. The judge upheld all of those."

The Tehachapi Planning Commission gave the green light to the construction of a 165,000-square-foot Walmart Super Center in what longtime staffers said may have been the largest turnout for a city hearing in history. The Tehachapi City Council then backed the project after hearing the appeal filed by Schaeffer.

Approval of the EIR included what is called a "statement of overriding consideration," meaning that the city could identify environmental impacts that could not be fully mitigated but that the city believed there were "overriding considerations" that merited support.

The Walmart store is proposed for land owned by the company near the southeast corner of Tucker Road (Highway 202) and Tehachapi Boulevard.

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