Wal-Mart representatives next week are expected to tell the city of Lodi how - and whether - its long-delayed plans for a 226,000-square-foot Supercenter will continue, according to Lodi's top planning official.
"That's what we're waiting for, is some indication on how they would like to proceed," Lodi Planning Manager Peter Pirnejad said Friday. "There's no indication of whether they're going to proceed or not."
Messages left for the project's developer, Darryl Browman, and a Central Valley Wal-Mart spokesman were not returned.
City officials as well as project opponents say they're in the dark as to why it has taken so long for the project's revised environmental reports to move forward.
A San Joaquin County Superior Court judge in December 2005 overturned the Lodi City Council's approval of the project. The judge ruled that the project's initial environmental studies were insufficient.
Ever since, Wal-Mart has taken the lead on revising those documents. A draft was released to the public last fall.
The final revisions - which must be approved by the Lodi council - have yet to be completed.
Proposed Lodi Supercenter timelineJuly 2003: Developers propose Wal-Mart Supercenter on Kettleman Lane and Lower Sacramento Road.
February 2005: Lodi City Council approves the Supercenter project.
December 2005: A San Joaquin County Superior Court judge overturns approval, based on insufficient environmental reports.
October 2007: Draft of revised environmental reports released.
March 2008: Lodi Planning Commission's review of revised environmental reports delayed.
- News-Sentinel staff
City officials say traffic safety requirements handed down by the California Department of Transportation may be the reason for the delay. CalTrans has the final say on traffic matters because the Supercenter is proposed along Highway 12, referred to as Kettleman Lane within city limits.
A CalTrans spokeswoman did not return messages seeking comment.
"We have anxiously been waiting for Wal-Mart forever," Lodi Mayor JoAnne Mounce said. "This is in Wal-Mart's hands. This is not in the city's hands at all."
She noted the last time she could recall Wal-Mart representatives sitting down with city leaders was late last year.
Project supporters say sales tax revenue from the Supercenter would provide critical money to cover city needs.
Opponents have argued the retail giant would drain business Downtown and from other commercial districts.
If approved, the Supercenter would anchor the 339,966-square-foot Lodi Shopping Center, proposed for the southwest corner of Kettleman Lane and Lower Sacramento Road.
The long delay in Lodi mirrors that of other Wal-Mart proposals across the state, said Steve Herum, a Stockton-based land-use attorney.
Herum filed the 2005 lawsuit that negated the Lodi Supercenter's initial approval. He represented a group called Lodi First.
"We're finding, in general, (Wal-Mart) is slowing down on their expansions," Herum said.
He said he did not have any other knowledge of why the Lodi project is on hold.
"They don't exactly let me in on corporate secrets," the attorney added.
Herum noted that Supercenter projects in Clovis, Chico and Selma have experienced similar delays.
Herum is representing a citizens group trying to block construction of the Supercenter in Clovis. A lawsuit in that matter is pending in Fresno County Superior Court, he said.
Opposition members in Lodi have largely scattered, given all the delays.
"I've kind of backed off it because it's taken so long," said Betsy Fiske, a Lodi resident and member of the now loose-knit Lodi First.
"I've just gotten so tired of it."