The Planning Commission on Thursday tightened the language of and approved a proposed big box ordinance that could scuttle plans for a Wal-Mart in Galt.
The commission recommended that the ordinance ban stores larger than 120,000 square feet that devote 10 percent of their floor space to selling groceries, or non-taxable goods.
Wal-Mart has submitted plans to build a 132,000-square-foot store on Twin Cities Road that would include 19 percent of grocery space.
The commission's recommendation goes to the City Council, which will make the final decision in late October or early November.
The proposed ordinance originally called for a ban of stores larger than 140,000 square feet with 10 percent of grocery space.
After the meeting, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the company was disappointed with the recommendation.
"We weren't expecting this outcome today," said Aaron Rios, Wal-Mart senior public affairs manager. "Our current application would be out of compliance with this ordinance. The recommendation would prevent us from building a store identical to the ones we have in Elk Grove and Lodi."
Rios did not say whether Wal-Mart would scale back its proposal or abandon plans for a Galt store if the council adopts the ordinance.
"It's too premature to tell," he said. "We are looking forward to the City Council further reviewing and listening to the public comment. We will have to regroup with our team."
The commission scaled down the size limit and required that stores between 90,000 and 120,000 square feet obtain a conditional use permit, meaning their plans would fall under additional scrutiny.
The commission voted 4-1 to pass this new ordinance on to the council. Commissioner Sherry Daley dissented.
Commissioner Eugene Davenport said he doesn't trust companies like Wal-Mart.
"It's unacceptable that we are letting these corporations come in and tell us what they are going to do," he said. "It is our job to protect the citizens of Galt with smart planning."
Ann Ullrich, chair of the Galt Chamber of Commerce, presented the results of an informal poll of its member businesses. She said chamber members were split on whether to support the ordinance.
She said that those in favor of the ordinance, and opposed to big box stores, were worried that these types of businesses syphon off revenue from mom-and-pop shops.
• Stores of 90,000 to 120,000 square feet with 10 or more percent of grocery space would need a conditional use permit.
• The Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend the ordinance to the City Council.
• The council will vote to adopt the ordinance at its meeting on Oct. 16 or Nov. 6.
- News-Sentinel staff.
"The primary concern was the effects on local business," Ullrich said.
Members who wanted to see big box stores move into Galt said the stores would bring sales tax revenue for the city, according to Ullrich.
Before voting against the ordinance, Daley agreed that stores such as Wal-Mart could be an economic boon to the city.
"I think we are shooting ourselves in the foot to chase off a business that can provide some economic benefit," she said. "I don't see why we need to tie our hands and commit economic suicide here."
Voters in Lodi turned down an ordinance to ban big box stores in 2004 by a 60-40 margin. This paved the way for stores of unlimited size.
Wal-Mart has submitted a proposal to build a 226,000-square-foot Supercenter in Lodi. That project is currently undergoing a supplemental environmental impact report. A judge halted Wal-Mart's plans after Stockton lawyer Steve Herum sued on behalf of a local group known as Lodi First, claiming that the EIR was not sufficient.
Galt's big box ban will ultimately be decided by the council. Councilman Donald Haines, who along with Vice Mayor Andrew Meredith spearheaded the legislation, said he was comfortable with the commission's decision to tighten the store size-limits.
"I don't have a problem with what they proposed," Haines said, adding that he wanted to hear all the arguments before voting. "It's needed to create a balance, to maintain some diversity with the businesses in Galt."
Haines said Wal-Mart's proposed Galt store is secondary to the ordinance.
"The big box ordinance came before Wal-Mart came into the picture," he said. "I'm sure if Wal-Mart really wanted to come into the community, they would scale back to 120,000 (square feet)."