TRACY - A group has sued the city of Tracy for its approval of Wal-Mart's request to add 70,000 square feet and sell groceries at its store on West Grant Line Road.
Tracy First, a group that has fought plans by the nation's biggest retailer, filed the lawsuit Nov. 2.
The lawsuit charges that the city's report to gauge the environmental effects of a bigger Wal-Mart were "legally deficient," said Steve Herum of Herum and Crabtree, a Stockton law firm that represents Tracy First.
A group calling itself Lodi First has opposed Wal-Mart's plans to build a Supercenter near the intersection of Lower Sacramento Road and Kettleman Lane in Lodi. Herum, who also represented Lodi First, was able to have the Lodi project stalled in December of 2005 by using a similar argument that's being used in the Tracy lawsuit.
After a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge ruled the project's environmental report invalid, the city of Lodi and Wal-Mart had to revise it. After three years, the Lodi City Council just recently approved the revised section of the report, although it still needs to the consent of the judget that originally ruled it was insufficient.
The Tracy lawsuit says the city study improperly defined how big the store would be by not including an 11,000-square-foot garden center and failed to evaluate and possibly cut air pollution, traffic, energy use and how it could spread urban rot in other shopping centers in Tracy.
The lawsuit asks a court to set aside the old study and force the city to write a new one.
Wal-Mart has been trying to add space for five years, and public debates draw throngs of impassioned supporters and critics.
Wal-Mart was built in 1993, and the company could have built a 163,000-square-foot store, but built at 125,000-square-feet instead. On Oct. 21, the City Council voted 3-1 to allow the store to add 70,000 square feet, of which roughly 30,000 will be devoted to groceries.
Fans of a Wal-Mart grocery store believe they'll save money there, while critics complain it will drive other grocery stores and other retail shopping centers out of business.
"I think it's detrimental to the city," said Marvin Rothschild, a Tracy First member who signed on to the lawsuit.
Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff scoffed at the idea that there was anything wrong with the city's environmental report, and said the city's work with the company in the past five years ended in "valid approval" of the environmental study.
"We've appreciated the support we've received," he said.
The lawsuit was hardly unexpected, and was in fact predicted by Councilman Steve Abercrombie when he voted to OK a bigger Wal-Mart.
Mayor Brent Ives said the city will likely defend itself against the suit, as it did when it beat a challenge to its approval of a WinCo grocery store.
"We think we did a good job with the (environmental impact report)," he said.