A Fresno County judge has ruled that the Clovis City Council properly approved a site plan for a proposed Winco supermarket.
Judge Mark Snauffer's ruling was the first major test of a 2008 city ordinance that makes it easier for developers to build in Clovis.
In June last year, the City Council approved a site plan for a 116,000-square-foot Winco supermarket at the northwest corner of Peach and Herndon avenues.
Opponents later sued in Superior Court, saying the site plan did not follow city zoning guidelines. They also accused the city of trying to keep the public out of the planning process because city staff did not require Winco officials to do an environmental impact report for the project.
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In a ruling last week, Snauffer said the city zoning for the Winco project allows for a supermarket. He also said the petitioners were "time-barred" from filing a legal objection because the city approved the zoning in 2001. State law says critics must challenge a zoning within 90 days of its approval, the judge said.
Without the 90-day deadline, Snauffer said: "This result would obliterate the certainty in land-use decisions."
In addition, Snauffer said the Winco project did not require an environmental review because the city had approved an ordinance in 2008 that makes it easier to develop a project without major roadblocks.
The ordinance gives staff "ministerial" review of site plans, Snauffer said, meaning that if the project fits the zoning, state law does not require an environmental impact report.
The ordinance has resulted "in a relatively streamlined process for permitting retail projects" in Clovis, Snauffer's ruling said.
The petitioners' disagreement with the city's policy decision – and their desire to see more public involvement in the permitting decisions – "is not a basis for this court to overturn a validly issued site plan," Snauffer wrote.
Assistant City Attorney Scott Cross said he was pleased with the ruling because it was the first major challenge to the 2008 ordinance. He also said a thorough environmental review for the area where Winco wants to build was done when the zoning was initially approved or amended by the City Council.
In addition, Clovis fashioned its ordinance after other cities that have been doing it for years, Cross said.
Attorney Sarah Owsowitz, who represents Peach Avenue Partners, which wants to build Winco, said she expects the opponents to file an appeal.
Attorney Brett Jolley, who represents the opponents of Winco, did not return calls.