Both sides on Merced Wal-Mart center waiting

No word from court on oral arguments

abutt@mercedsunstar.comMay 31, 2012 

— It's a waiting game for the city and a local advocacy group in the Wal-Mart distribution center case.

Both sides have yet to hear from the 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno about a notice for oral arguments from both sides in the case.

After the City Council approved the project in 2009, a case was brought against the city by the Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth, asking to prohibit the city from moving forward with the project.

The group, led by community volunteers who are also longtime residents, said it had concerns about how the center would affect air quality, its proximity to homes and schools, and the quality and pay range of the jobs offered.

The judge ruled in favor of the city last year, stating the city hadn't violated the California Environmental Quality Act in its paperwork for the proposed distribution center.

The judge also ruled that the city wasn't required to recirculate the draft environmental impact report among the public.

However, in May 2011, the alliance appealed to the 5th District Court of Appeals.

The city and Wal-Mart attorneys, and the alliance submitted their briefs earlier this year, according to city officials.

Now both sides are waiting to hear back from the court on when oral arguments will take place, said Ken Rozell, deputy city attorney.

"The notice will let us know how soon. We expect to get the notice in the next 30 days, but we will have to wait for the court to move forward with the process," Rozell said.

Wal-Mart proposes to build a 1.1-million-square-foot center on a 230-acre site at the northwest cor- ner of Gerard Avenue and Tower Road.

The center would employ about 1,200 people and operate 24 hours a day.

It would include a 17,000-square-foot truck-maintenance building with two underground oil storage tanks, and a fueling station with two 20,000-gallon diesel fuel storage tanks.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsunstar.com.

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