Clovis planning commissioners unanimously recommended an environmental report and site plan for a new 491,000-square-foot shopping center near Highway 168 and Clovis Avenue.
Planning commissioners were asked to recommend a revised environmental document for the center to the Clovis City Council. The center includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Kohl's, Petco and Bed, Bath and Beyond.
The environmental document was rejected last year by a judge who ordered the city to redo two parts of it.
The Clovis City Council "de-certified" its environmental document and reversed approval of the project after Judge Wayne Ellison found the report lacking information about water impacts and the effects on shopping centers beyond the Clovis city limits.
In supporting the project, Planning Commissioner Vongsavanh Mouanoutoua said the project will bring more jobs. He said he could not vote against the project because it complies with city zoning.
The only issue of contention occurred on the project's site plan when commissioners Nancy Morrison and Tom Grogan sought revisions to remove the grocery store, create a more pedestrian-friendly setting and add facade treatments that reflected Clovis. But the proposal failed 3-2.
In the revised reports for water and urban decay, both consultants said the center's impacts would be minimal.
In the revised water report, consultant Provost & Pritchard said the shopping center land has a water entitlement greater than the expected water demand.
The shopping center consultants, CB Richard Ellis, said "some closures of market area stores could occur," but that it will not add to urban decay.
Stockton lawyer Steve Herum, who represents Save Our Crossroads Center, the group that sued, said the Planning Commission should have continued the hearing because his firm didn't receive the environmental document 10 days before the hearing as required by law.
He said the water report is incorrect because the land is not being farmed and water is not required on the land now. He also said the urban decay report, which was written in September, said Gottschalks and Mervyns were well-positioned anchor stores for the future.
Recommending the environmental document, he said, means that commissioners agree with the statements about Gottschalks and Mervyns.
Herum also said the economic impacts revision should be invalidated because Wal-Mart has a previous relationship with CB Richard Ellis and is prejudiced.
But lawyer Don Neufeld, representing the city, said: "We see no reason to think the EIR [environmental impact report] is in any way deficient because CB Richard Ellis had a prior relationship with Wal-Mart."
About 75 residents showed up for the hearing; eight spoke in favor and eight against the project.
"Across the street was a Save Mart, but you can't blame Wal-Mart for that," said supporter Ben Bergquam of Fresno.
But, Greg Newman, general manager of Sierra Vista Mall, who opposed the center, said there are vacancies all over the Valley in shopping centers that have never had vacancy problems.
"This is a time we have never seen in retail," he said. "This is not going away tomorrow."
The City Council is expected to consider the issue May 18.