A grocery store in Fresno is suing the city of Clovis for approving plans that allow construction of a Winco supermarket more than three miles away, claiming the proposed store will siphon off customers.
The owners of Food 4 Less at Chestnut and Shepherd avenues in Fresno contend they will lose a significant amount of business if the Winco is built at Peach and Herndon avenues.
Six individuals also are named as plaintiffs, including at least one Food 4 Less employee. The lawsuit was filed last week.
Clovis has approved plans for the Winco as the largest piece of a 116,000-square-foot shopping center at Peach and Herndon.
Lawyers representing Food 4 Less are with the same firm representing a community group opposed to a planned shopping center at Highway 168 and Herndon Avenue that includes the Wal-Mart Supercenter.
The lawsuit says the city erred by not conducting a public hearing and an environmental study for the Winco project.
City officials say that because the supermarket was approved earlier in a larger project -- the Target shopping center at Willow and Herndon avenues -- only a staff review was needed.
City Attorney David Wolfe said the city's approval of the project without a public hearing was legal.
Lawyer Brett Jolley, representing the Winco opponents, said the Winco project is not consistent with the city's General Plan and does not meet the city's zoning guidelines for the site, which is supposed to include homes.
The city must do an environmental review, including a "blight study," Jolley said, because the Winco project could cause more retail vacancies, based on the city's economic study for the Wal-Mart Supercenter project.
But City Planner Dwight Kroll said that Winco is part of a larger project area that still includes a proposal for homes north of Spruce Avenue on the west side of Peach Avenue.
The city prepared an environmental review for the entire complex that includes Target, Best Buy and PetSmart as well as Winco, Kroll said.
A study done for the Wal-Mart project, which included the proposed Winco supermarket, said the Winco would not result in higher vacancy rates, he said.
A judge last year found the city should not have certified an environmental report for the Wal-Mart Supercenter project because the document did not adequately address water needs and did not examine the potential for lost business by merchants beyond the Clovis city limits.
The City Council "decertified" the environmental report, and consultants were told to rewrite sections.
Two weeks ago, the council certified the revised environmental report.
A judge still needs to approve it before the project can move forward.