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Galt Walmart moves forward; Lodi’s languishes in litigation

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Posted: Saturday, December 10, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:10 am, Sat Dec 10, 2011.

Two Walmarts are proposed within a 15-mile radius.

One, planned for Galt, would include 133,000 square feet and a small grocery department. Developers want to place it on Twin Cities Road.

The other, a proposed Supercenter for Lodi, would be 226,000 square feet. It would include a substantial grocery section and be built on a parcel at the corner of Lower Sacramento Road and Kettleman Lane.

But Galt’s Walmart, after a successful round of mediation over just four weeks, is moving toward construction.

Meanwhile, Lodi’s Supercenter project remains stuck. It has been mired in legal challenges for seven years — with no groundbreaking in sight.

So why the difference?

Lodi City Attorney Stephen Schwabauer said it’s all about money.

“The Galt opposition was not as well-funded or as strong because the Lodi opposition has continued to push. The only solution for them is to not have the Lodi Supercenter be built,” he said.

Since its approval in late 2004, building the store in Lodi has been the focus of a voter initiative and at least half a dozen lawsuits using California’s tough environmental laws.

It has never been made public who is funding the opposition, although some presume it is the grocery unions. Safeway, S-Mart, Food-4-Less and Raley’s all operate grocery stores within a mile of the proposed Lodi Supercenter. In Galt, only Raley’s is nearby and its representatives have never spoken out against the project.

Few changes made in Galt

In 2007, Walmart proposed building Galt’s 133,000-square-foot store at the corner of Twin Cities Road and Fermoy Way. The Galt City Council originally approved the project in April 2010, and a lawsuit was filed by Davis-based attorney William Kopper on behalf of a citizens group made up almost entirely of neighbors near the proposed site.

In November, Galt Citizens for Sensible Planning agreed to dismiss its lawsuit if the city complied with hiring an outside noise consultant to perform monitoring twice during the first year of Walmart’s operation.

Members also asked that minor site plan modifications be made, including additional landscape, a taller wall, a slight decrease in parking and a 15-foot increase in distance between the store and adjacent residences to the south and east.

Galt City Manager Jason Behrmann pointed out that Lodi already has a Walmart and Galt doesn’t. That may have been why his staff pushed for a timely resolution, he said.

“I think both sides recognized the store was going to be built, and the (Sensible Planning) group decided it should just mediate,” Behrmann said. “Whether it was being driven by the neighbors, Walmart or the unnamed party that was backing the lawsuit, who knows?”

Kopper has represented other Walmart opponents including groups against Supercenters in Red Bluff, Oroville and Stockton’s Spanos West Park.

That group filed suit under the name Stockton Citizens for Sensible Planning. The court decided in April 2010 that Kopper’s lawsuit challenging the city’s store approval came too late, thus clearing the way for a 207,000-square-foot store. It will be the city’s second Supercenter.

Lodi opposition years old

Lodi First and Citizens for Open Government took issue with Lodi’s proposed Supercenter early on and filed separate lawsuits in 2005 against the project.

Lodi First has claimed the Lodi City Council’s original environmental impact report did not sufficiently address the project’s potential affect on urban decay, pollution and traffic.

San Joaquin County Judge Elizabeth Humphreys ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in deciding that the project’s environmental reports needed more studies. The retailer did the additional studies required by court and then had to go through the city approval process again.

The council approved the store at a meeting in March 2009 in a 3-2 vote, with Councilwomen Susan Hitchcock and JoAnne Mounce voting against the project. It then had to go back to the court to be approved by Humphreys, since she issued the original decision in 2005.

As in Galt, the parties did mediate and discuss early settlement, but to no avail.

In 2010, Citizens for Open Government filed paperwork appealing Humphreys' decision, which would have allowed construction to move forward. At the time, Schwabauer said the appeal process would probably take at least a year.

In May of that year, Humphreys had ruled that the retailer’s environmental impact report met state requirements, and she rejected arguments from both challengers, Lodi First and Citizens for Open Government.

By throwing out the case, it cleared the way for the retailer to build — until the latest appeal was filed. It is currently in the Third District Court of Appeals awaiting a decision.

What’s the difference?

Local attorney Ann Cerney, a member Citizens for Open Government, said the difference between Lodi and Galt’s projects, and even subsequent litigation which moved rather quickly, is that Galt’s was fought by a community group, not a large organized group like Lodi First. That group is represented by a big-name attorney with few local residents.

“They don’t ever give in, because they don’t have to. They have the money to fight it,” Cerney said.

Stockton-based attorney Steven Herum has represented Lodi First for years, only recently turning the reins over to his assistant, Brett Jolley. In addition, Herum led a successful campaign in the mid-2000s against two Supercenters in Bakersfield and at least nine other California cities.

In many cases, lawsuits against Walmart have been filed on behalf of obscure, often secretive, community groups that have few known members. Some of them have been backed by the labor unions, while others have few apparent sources of money.

But the suits haven’t stopped Walmart from opening any stores, according to company spokesman Peter Kanelos. “All they’ve done is delay the stores,” he said.

Attorneys such as Bakersfield-based Craig N. Beardsley, who has dueled with the Walmart opposition for years, said such lawsuits in California are being backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has fought Walmart’s entry into the state’s grocery market.

“No one will admit anything, and I couldn’t swear on a stack of Bibles that that’s the way it is,” Beardsley said, “but we all believe that to be true.”

In 2005, union spokeswoman Jill Cashen acknowledged the union backed “four or five lawsuits in California,” but said there are another 25 or 30 suits in which UFCW isn’t involved.

Typically, California’s anti-Supercenter lawsuits are filed on behalf of a local community group that often doesn’t disclose its members or where it gets its funding for the court challenge.

Herum, too, has declined to say who pays for the suits, and said that he’s never represented a union in 25 years of practicing law.

But “if my interests happen to align with the labor union, so what?” Herum said, adding that Supercenters have potential to “destroy the economic future of the Central Valley.”

When it comes to Galt’s Walmart, Behrmann suspects whoever was behind the litigation was tired of fighting this particular store. The city took Galt Citizens for Sensible Planning to court to find out who was funding the lawsuit, but the court ruled against the city.

“Our assumption is they were tired of putting money into the litigation,” he said.

Out of the 20 such cases Kopper has brought against Walmart, this is the first he agreed to settle before it went through the appeals process, according to Behrmann.

“Walmart said this is the first time ever in the state of California that there’s been a mediation,” he said of lawsuits brought against building stores.

No matter the reason Galt’s project was ushered ahead, officials there are looking forward to not only the jump in sales tax revenue — an estimated $500,000 annually — but additional jobs and retail opportunities not currently available. Residents now drive to either Elk Grove or Lodi to buy incidentals such as underwear and socks.

“Galt has very little retail available, but the city of Lodi already offers choices,” Mayor Barbara Payne said, adding that Galtonians are aware their tax dollars are being spent outside city limits. “(They) want to increase the revenue for their own town.”

In the end, Payne said, people of all economic levels want to find the bargain prices Walmart offers.

“Considering all of these reasons, I believe public opinion has put pressure on those opposing Walmart to think of the needs of the community rather than their own personal objections,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • Kevin Paglia posted at 1:03 pm on Sun, Dec 18, 2011.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 1879

    I guess I shouldn't have expected anything different from a "man" who believes thousands of pounds of mysterious nanothermite was snuck into a building with thousands of daily workers and no one noticed a thing.

  • Andrew Liebich posted at 11:47 am on Sun, Dec 18, 2011.

    Andrew Liebich Posts: 2683

    Did the WalMart clerk who sold Loughner his ammo not see something or did he just not say something?

    I suggest you watch this film: http://www.anoblelie.com/

    Facts are no match for emotions...

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 9:46 am on Sun, Dec 18, 2011.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 1879

    anyone who opposes saying something when you see something suspicious needs to remember Oklahoma city http://www.oklahomacitybombing.com/oklahoma-city-bombing.html. I know to a couple posters here the murdering bomber is a hero, but to people who respect life and see a real value in not letting the McVeighs of this world destroy families. only a coward would park a bomb under a daycare and murder as many children as possible. it speaks volumes to the character of a poster that he would rather let families and lives be destroyed than support saying something if you see something suspicious.

    Personally i applaud Walmart and private citizens who value life enough to promote preventing the next McVeigh from using a daycare as ground zero for a mass murder.


  • Andrew Liebich posted at 8:09 am on Sat, Dec 17, 2011.

    Andrew Liebich Posts: 2683

    If you don’t care about slave labor in far-off lands working till they drop; if you don’t care about Wal-Mart’s discrimination against women; if you don’t care about slave wages and healthcare waivers, then at least care about the foundation of freedom itself...

    When Janet Napolitano revealed her "If You See Something, Say Something" program last year, it was Wal-Mart she chose as the retailer to represent this fascist initiative of private corporations and government working together to spy on Americans.


    As a country, we have moved so far in the direction of communist China it is almost impossible to believe. Even if you subscribe to the notion that Americans should be spied on, which is completely unconstitutional in and of itself, should that role be entrusted to untrained Wal-Mart shoppers?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:54 am on Fri, Dec 16, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Josh... very impressive thinking and logic. I think the debate is over.

  • Josh Morgan posted at 3:33 pm on Thu, Dec 15, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    K Lee: Now we're getting somewhere. How is this class that Walmart is in "all by itself" defined? Who has set the standard for this classification? How do you justify treating this class differently than another class? (Starting to sound like discrimination). What happens when someone thinks you are in a class all by yourself and limits your abilities to function as your neighbors? It's just so fascinating to me that this country has gone out of its way to eliminate discrimination (rightfully so) but I guess it's now ok to ferret out selective institutions to discriminate against. And by the way, has anybody told you that you look like Tina Fey?

  • Kim Lee posted at 2:33 pm on Thu, Dec 15, 2011.

    Kim Lee Posts: 1798

    Josh: Walmart is in a class all by itself.

  • Josh Morgan posted at 7:41 am on Thu, Dec 15, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    K Lee, although I disagree, let's assume you and Joanne are correct in that the WSC will not produce additional tax revenues and their prices are not any cheaper than any other store around. Why should they not be allowed to relocate? We see other businesses expand and relocate all of the time. Why is this situation any different? Why don't those opposed to the relocation identify themselves? I just don't get it. The WSC should not be treated any differently than any other business making the same request.

  • Kim Lee posted at 10:55 pm on Wed, Dec 14, 2011.

    Kim Lee Posts: 1798

    Joanne Bobin wrote, "Larger tax base? The Supercenter will only add groceries which are non-taxable for the most part. Taxable "grocery" items, including liquor and cigarettes are already being sold at the WalMart we have."

    Good points, Joanne.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:26 pm on Wed, Dec 14, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Josh... great point...

  • Kim Lee posted at 2:23 pm on Wed, Dec 14, 2011.

    Kim Lee Posts: 1798

    In my personal experience I have not found the food prices at Walmart to be any cheaper than say Food for Less or S-mart etc.

  • Josh Morgan posted at 2:02 pm on Wed, Dec 14, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    Does anyone else find it interesting that a group that calls themselves "Lodi Citizens for Open Government" refuses to disclose who their members are? I commend this organization for demanding openness and honesty.......but shouldn't the same apply to them?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:50 pm on Tue, Dec 13, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Klee stated...We already have a Walmart in Lodi.

    True, but the union food stores are doing their best to make sure a superwalmart, that is non-union, will not be able to compete... they want Lodians to pay a higher price for the products they sell.

  • Kim Lee posted at 5:01 pm on Tue, Dec 13, 2011.

    Kim Lee Posts: 1798

    "In the end, Payne said, people of all economic levels want to find the bargain prices Walmart offers."

    We already have a Walmart in Lodi.

  • Kim Lee posted at 4:57 pm on Tue, Dec 13, 2011.

    Kim Lee Posts: 1798

    Josh Morgan wrote, "Why do you think other businesses flock to be located near a Walmart store?"

    Not all businesses "flock to be located near a Walmart store". Walmart generates a huge amount of traffic. A business location next to a Walmart is not a winning strategy for all retailers... far from it. Only those specialty discounters that complement rather than compete can even hope to survive in shopping centers anchored by a Walmart. Most cannot compete with Walmart's traffic. The Dollar Stores, beauty supply and vitamin retailers are mostly what you'll find hitching their wagons to Walmart. Most of these are chains, not mom and pop stores.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:39 am on Mon, Dec 12, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    All true Ms savage... However, my point was that the Obama administration directed one of the most exhaustive investigations with an open ended government checkbook to look into every possible cause... and used the full weight and force of a sympathetic justice department...yet... the Justice Department announced that it would not criminally prosecute Massey.

    Since the Obama administration is pro union as you are, and since Obama would love to make an example out of a private sector corporation was was noted for union busting... you would think they would have found one item that they could prosecute if what you say is true.. just one.

    I am not saying that this situation is acceptable... and that this particular company should be nominated for sainthood. However, it is you that stated that if a union had been involved, this would definitely not have happened... It is you that wish to politicize the deaths of these minors for union benefit... not me.
    I am simply responding to your assertion that unions= quality control.

    If you had simply talked about the tragedy and how some companies should be more concerned about the safety of the employees, I would have jumped in and agreed wholeheartedly. Instead.. you used this as an example and reason to unionize.

  • Marcia Savage posted at 12:06 am on Mon, Dec 12, 2011.

    Marcia Savage Posts: 9

    Mr. Baumbach, RE your posting of 6:10 pm today I also read that same article from the New York Times, but I didn't see any attribution on your part, so I am giving readers the link here, which they can copy&paste into their browser


    ..."It concluded that Massey’s “unlawful policies and practices” were the “root cause of this tragedy.” It identified over 300 violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act, including nine flagrant violations that contributed to the explosion.

    The scathing findings probably came as no surprise in West Virginia, where Massey had a well-earned reputation for putting miners at risk, breaking unions and polluting the environment..."

    (And you didn't mention the double set of books Massey kept.)

    If they read the whole article , most people will not be as dismissive as you seem to be
    regarding this tragedy. I doubt very much if a union shop would have allowed that number of violations to continue and endanger the lives of those men. They died because of greed, pure and simple greed.

    I know we got way off topic from the original story in the LNS about Wal-Mart, but the word "union" seemed to expand the discussion.

  • Charles Nelson posted at 10:11 pm on Sun, Dec 11, 2011.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 257

    D.B. People know what they know. Don't start bombarding them with things like facts.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:23 pm on Sun, Dec 11, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Ms Savage.... I do appreiate your post re: unions role in workers safety... I think some industries like mining where safety for workers is an issue, unions can be apppropriate. My concern is the forced requirement of joining unions and that most unions concern themselves with wages and benefits and not worker safety.. I think workers should be allowed to join or opt out... Unfofrtunately, most union membership is forced.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:10 pm on Sun, Dec 11, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Ms Savage.... After what I read, it is hard to believe that if unions had been involved in this case that it would have made a difference... explosions and accidents do happen even if all safety precautions are taken.

    EARLY on April 5, 2010, in the heart of West Virginia coal country, a huge explosion killed 29 workers at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. Later that day, President Obama directed Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis to conduct “the most thorough and comprehensive investigation possible” and to work with the Justice Department to investigate any criminal violations.

    On Tuesday, the Labor Department issued a 972-page report on the calamity — the nation’s worst mining disaster in 40 years....on the same day the devastating report was released, the Justice Department announced that it would not criminally prosecute Massey.

  • Marcia Savage posted at 5:32 pm on Sun, Dec 11, 2011.

    Marcia Savage Posts: 9

    Mr. Baumbach:
    I probably should rephrase my point: Union workers (actually ALL workers in the U.S.) are part of the capitalist system and, by definition, sell their labor to the highest bidder. They can do this as part of a union or as an individtual employee. Union members ARE there to make money (isn't everyone?) I am not anti-capitalist, because that's how I made my living before retiring-- working for capitalists.

    You say that unions are there to "take" money - not "earn" money. Conversely, capitalists do the same thing by extracting the lowest cost of labor and material as possible..

    A prime example, and one of several, are the criminal acts at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine, which resulted in the deaths of 29 human beings -- husbands, fathers, sons, friends. Gone from this earth due to greed and blatant violations of safety rules in a very dangerous industry. Had that mine been a union shop, those men would very likely be alive today to enjoy Sunday dinner tonight with their families and get ready to go to work tomorrow. No union would ever have allowed those violations to continue. They would have SHUT THEM DOWN by striking for safer working conditions.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:19 pm on Sun, Dec 11, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Ms savage stated... As for "the unions" being behind the thwarting of Wal-Mart in Lodi, they are capitalists, too, and are just protecting their "interests...

    Ms Savage makes a claim I have never seen anyone make... unions are capitalists...
    Unions are not there to make money. Unions are there to take as much operating capital away from the employer who is a capitalist as they possibly can. They are there to take money... not earn money. That is why unions are loved by anti-capitalists who want to take by force... not create.

  • Marcia Savage posted at 10:57 am on Sun, Dec 11, 2011.

    Marcia Savage Posts: 9

    It's interesting that the ensuing traffic congestion off Hwy 99 onto Twin Cities Rd, ( then on to Fermoy Way) wasn't mentioned in this article. Is there any funding coming from the State or Feds to correct this obvious flaw? I have family members who live in Emerald Village (off Fermoy in back of Raley's). They were lied to and told when they had their homes built there that that vacant lot would be a "mini strip mall, housing a small medical clinic, etc." When Wal-Mart finally gets in there, the congestion, noise and traffic will be unbearable.
    As for "the unions" being behind the thwarting of Wal-Mart in Lodi, they are capitalists, too, and are just protecting their "interests" like any other Koch Brothers' or other capitalist business endeavors...

  • Josh Morgan posted at 8:50 pm on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    Why do you think other businesses flock to be located near a Walmart store?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:43 pm on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Ms Bobin.... are you sure Lodi's tax base will not increase?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:35 pm on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Wal-Mart comes with promise of more tax revenue for Placer
    By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer

    Jim Holmes

    While Wal-Mart lays the groundwork for a move into the Auburn marketplace, Placer County is anticipating a jump in tax revenue when it opens.

    Purchased last December from Bohemia Properties, the 18-acre Wal-Mart site is located outside Auburn city limits in unincorporated North Auburn, near the Luther Road-Highway 49 intersection.

    An analysis by Economic Research Associates as part of the Wal-Mart site’s environmental review in 2009 estimated a discount store would bring in revenue totaling $637,554 annually. That’s compared to a Costco or club store’s $898,000 or a home improvement center’s $465,000. The money would go into the county’s general fund.

    Additionally, property taxes for a developed Wal-Mart store over and above what the land is now worth would generate $210,000 in property-tax revenues annually for the Placer County RedeveloWhile Wal-Mart lays the groundwork for a move into the Auburn marketplace, Placer County is anticipating a jump in tax revenue when it opens

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:33 pm on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Walmart will bring sales tax revenue...

    Share 10/11/2011, 2:26 pm
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    Streator is looking at more than $400,000 annually in sales tax revenue generated by the new Walmart, which opens Wednesday in the 2400 block of North Bloomington Street.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:16 pm on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    A June 2006 article published by the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute suggested that Wal-Mart has a positive impact on small business.[116] It argued that while Wal-Mart's low prices caused some existing businesses to close, the chain also created new opportunities for other small business, and so "the process of creative destruction unleashed by Wal-Mart has no statistically significant impact on the overall size of the small business sector in the United States

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 2:25 pm on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4296

    Larger tax base? The Supercenter will only add groceries which are non-taxable for the most part. Taxable "grocery" items, including liquor and cigarettes are already being sold at the WalMart we have.

    As for jobs, most WalMart employees are transient (except for the elderly greeter in the Garden Center). That is an indication of the type of employer WalMart is.

  • Josh Morgan posted at 1:10 pm on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    This has been union backed since day one. Why this is not disclosed is beyond me. If Mr Herum believes its "not a big deal", then why is it such a big deal? Just be honest about it!

  • Richard Turner posted at 10:32 am on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Richard Turner Posts: 80

    Yes in these hard times why would we want more jobs ? I had to leave Lodi after 33 years and come all the way to Allentown Pa. to find work . Here you dont have all the "Red Tape" , and expenses to open a business and I found work immediately!! In fact I have moved on to an even better job and I am helping with the opening of a brand new restaurant !!! Lodi is hurting and it seems unless it has to do with wine or tacos.....and I am not being racist , I love Mexican culture....but that is all that opens !! Good luck Lodi , I miss you very much !!!

  • Doug Elk posted at 7:57 am on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Doug Elk Posts: 8

    The unions are KILLING America!

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 7:15 am on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    If Walmart was union, this center would have been built long ago.
    That unions can eliminate non-union competition through the legal system
    is sad. Unions do not care about the people of Lodi. This center means more jobs
    and larger tax base to Lodi. Unions are selfish and do not care if their actions hurt others.

    I am glad the paper listed the union stores as I will not shop there.



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