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Walmart to buy Lodi farmland

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Posted: Friday, June 21, 2013 12:00 am

In an effort to move one step closer to opening the Lodi Shopping Center, anchored by a Walmart Supercenter, the company is in talks with the city to purchase a tract of farmland near the White Slough Pollution Control Center, the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The Lodi City Council directed staff to look into Walmart’s proposal during the closed session of Wednesday nights’s council meeting.

The new shopping center will take up about 40 acres of prime agriculture land. Environmental impact surveys completed by the state and the city require Walmart to purchase 40 acres of farmland elsewhere and dedicate it solely to agriculture as a replacement.

This measure is normal for major developments on agricultural land. The cost will be borne entirely by Walmart, not the other stores in the center, since it is the anchor store.

“We are moving forward with the mitigation measures that are a part of this project, and we look forward to serving our Lodi customers with convenient access to our affordable merchandise and quality grocery products,” said Rachel Wall, Walmart spokeswoman.

The center is surrounded by 1,000 acres of city-owned farmland between Thornton and North Rio Blanco roads, with Interstate 5 cutting through the middle. Two farmers lease the land to grow mostly corn for animal feed. The city bought the land when the center opened in 1967 so they could release a portion of their treated waste water for irrigation.

City officials say the specific tract of land Walmart will purchase has not yet been selected, but there is no reason to think the project is stalled.

“You’d have to think the project is moving forward due to their eagerness to purchase this land,” said City Manager Rad Bartlam.

The Supercenter project has had a heated history in Lodi.

Two nonprofit groups, Lodi First and Citizens for Open Government, opposed Walmart and contested the city’s state mandated environmental documents for the project. The groups said the documents lacked a portion on global warming and mitigation measures for the loss of agricultural land. The dispute ended in March 2012 when the California Court of Appeals denied their joint appeal.

In August 2012, city staff said they anticipated building plans by the end of the calendar year, and for the building to begin in spring. The plans have not yet been submitted.

The main stipulation in the city’s approval of the Supercenter is finding a use for the current Walmart building. One has not yet been found.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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