A three-judge state Appellate Court panel in Fresno is expected to issue a decision about a proposed Walmart Supercenter in Clovis within a few weeks following a hearing Thursday.
Lawyers for the city of Clovis and Walmart were pitted against a community group's attorney Thursday who said an environmental document for the shopping center was hiding information on water use and was dishonest about business vacancies and blight.
The hearing Thursday 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.
Plans were first approved for the center in 2003.
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Save Our Crossroads Center, a local group opposing the project, and their lawyers contend city officials did not properly take water supplies and urban blight into account when they approved plans for the 491,000-square-foot shopping center at Herndon and Clovis avenues. The anchor store is a 212,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter.
Thursday's hearing lasted about 30 minutes with the judges asking only a few general questions about language used in the report.
Natalie Weber, who represented the community group, said the environmental report hides facts about the project's water use. She said the shopping center would consume 80 more acre-feet of water than is used today on the land. The environmental report said the shopping center would use one less acre-foot than the city's total water entitlement for the land when it is built.
"They never tell the public the impact," she told the judges.
But Bob Hillison, who represents shopping center developer David Paynter, said the environmental report showed city water supplies would not be affected by the center because the water is available.
Weber also said the report shows that the city played "a shell game" in its description of urban decay and blight. She said a percentage of building vacancies should be tied to the definition of blight.
The shopping center, she said, will cause vacancies, deterioration in the business community and urban decay.
Associate Justice Dennis Cornell asked how the shopping center would make blight worse. Weber told him that more stores would close if the project is built.
But urban decay and blight should not be tied to a percentage of vacancies as lawyers for the community group contend, said David Wolfe, Clovis city attorney.