Revised plans to bring a Wal-Mart Supercenter to Lodi could be back in front of city leaders by this summer, despite growing opposition in the region to such retail giants.
Lodi Planning Manager Peter Pirnejad said Monday that reworked sections of Wal-Mart's environmental impact report - including the project's effect on the local economy, traffic, air quality and agriculture - could be ready for review by the Lodi City Council in about three months.
A San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge in December 2005 overturned the council's approval of the Supercenter, asserting that the environmental report for the 226,868-square-foot project was incomplete.
Since January, several East Bay communities have either denied Wal-Mart plans to expand their existing stores into Supercenters (in Antioch) or turned down plans for a Supercenter (in Concord).
In Brentwood, city leaders this year adopted an ordinance limiting the size of their big box stores, as leaders in Galt and Stockton have proposed doing, said Steve Herum, a Stockton attorney who has challenged numerous plans to build Wal-Mart stores in the state.
"In Northern California, there's increasing opposition to the Supercenters," Herum said. "I think it's really an emerging trend in the valley."
City planners will recommend ways Wal-Mart can lessen its blow on the local economy and environment, Pirnejad said.
That advice will be studied first by the city's planning commission and then the council.
Charging Wal-Mart a "big box" fee might be one way for it to compensate for the loss of small businesses in the city, planners said earlier this year.
Such a fee could generate $1 million, and would be dedicated to improvements in the city's downtown business core.
Opponents of giant retailers contend that the stores drive smaller companies out of business due to the low prices they can offer.
City planners could also recommend Wal-Mart purchase easements on agricultural lands near Lodi. That would help offset the loss of ag land at the proposed site, just south of Kettleman Lane at Lower Sacramento Road - across the street from Lodi's existing Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart has 22 Supercenters throughout the state, nine under construction and nine more that have been recently approved for construction, said Kevin Loscotoff, a Wal-Mart spokesman.
Loscotoff said the company remains strongly supportive of the Lodi Supercenter.
"Wal-Mart has a 15-year relationship with the Lodi community and we have been working hand in hand for the past four years to bring this terrific new project to fruition," he wrote in an e-mail.
"We remain committed to this project and to the Lodi residents and community leaders who have repeatedly shown us their support."
Reached for comment Monday, two city council members said they will do their best to examine the project's merits.
Councilwoman Susan Hitchcock opposed the project initially, noting the project didn't fully address its detrimental effect on the area's economy or agriculture.
"I'm interested in seeing how they address these issues," she said. "I'll certainly read those documents thoroughly."
Councilman Larry Hansen said he'll also scrutinize the new reports, regardless of his already strong support for the project.
"I was in favor of the project (in 2005) and I still hope it comes to Lodi," he said.
He noted that the store would help keep sales tax in Lodi, a revenue that's lost when residents shop at big box stores in neighboring communities.
He added that his job isn't to limit how the commercial market works.
"I believe very strongly in free enterprise," he said. "I don't believe it's my job on the City Council to prevent free enterprise."