A three-judge state appellate court panel in Fresno on Tuesday upheld the city of Clovis' approval of a shopping center project that includes a controversial Walmart Supercenter.
The 491,000-square-foot project, which has been in limbo since 2003, could get under way soon.
The ruling came after a hearing two weeks ago when lawyers for Clovis and Walmart argued for the project, which was opposed by a community group's attorney.
The project's opponents contended that an environmental report for the shopping center violated state environmental law because it concealed information on water use and glossed over business vacancies and blight.
The Fifth District Court of Appeal had issues with wording in the city's environmental report about the project's water supply but determined that the water supply and urban decay sections of the report were done properly.
The judges said the city noted that it could provide 81 acre-feet of water from the Kings River for the project, which would require 80 acre-feet. But the land today uses no water, the judges said.
In their ruling, the judges described the water section of the report as "bordering on disingenuous" but noted that most readers would understand the project's water needs.
Lawyers for the center's opponents, Save Our Crossroads Center, said a specific percentage of vacant buildings should be the threshold for urban decay, but the judges did not share that view.
In their ruling, they said "there appeared to be little or no evidence of physically deteriorating commercial properties in Clovis" or neighboring parts of Fresno that were studied in the environmental report.
The hearing took place more than a year after a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled that the Clovis City Council's decision approving the environmental report was proper.
The Walmart Supercenter is the project's anchor at 212,000 square feet.
On Tuesday, the center's developer, David Paynter, confirmed that he also has a signed lease from Dick's Sporting Goods for a 50,000-square-foot store at the Highway 168 and Herndon Avenue site.
"We are very pleased by the decision," Paynter said of the ruling. "I think we are going to push ahead as fast as we can, but we need to talk to Walmart and coordinate with them."
Other center tenants include: Petco, Old Navy and Dress Barn.
The project will bring additional construction and retail jobs, along with sales and property-tax revenues that will help pay for city services, Clovis City Council Member Nathan Magsig said Tuesday.