Politics & Government

City Council OKs report for Clovis Wal-Mart

An environmental report for a 492,000-square foot shopping center with a Wal-Mart Supercenter as an anchor was approved by Clovis City Council members Monday night.

Council members approved an environmental report for the center after more than three hours of discussion that included concerns about traffic, pollution and water supply for the center at Clovis and Herndon avenues. Monday night's meeting was a follow-up to a six-hour hearing on the center last month.

The vote was 3-2, with council members Harry Armstrong and Lynne Ashbeck opposed to the environmental document.

As the meeting inched toward 11 p.m., the council still needed to address the site plan and the center's hours. Wal-Mart wants to keep its store open 24 hours a day. Clovis police are requesting the store be open only from 5 a.m. to midnight.

Council members, following staff recommendations, determined that many of the issues brought up in a meeting last month by a Stockton attorney, such as the need for a water supply assessment and health and pollution issues, were met in the environmental impact report for the project.

Save Our Crossroads Center attorney Natalie Weber said the city's environmental report was defective. She had one City Council ally in Armstrong, who described the environmental report as "very weak."

Armstrong said he called 50 Clovis residents and 47 of them were opposed to the center.

Council Member Ashbeck was concerned about the findings of traffic issues in the report.

Council Member Nathan Magsig said he is not sure that traffic issues can be completely mitigated.

"There will be problems whether or not this project happens," he said.

Mayor Bob Whalen said he could not think of anything that has not already been addressed in the environmental report.

"Blaming the developer is like getting on the scale in the morning and seeing I'm overweight and blaming my wife for being a great cook," he said.

The water supply assessment issue was dismissed outright by the city staff because the assessment is required for projects exceeding 500,000 square feet or with more than 1,000 employees. This project will not exceed either threshold, the city said.

The city also said air quality issues and their health-related impacts were in the report's health risk assessment, which was reviewed by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Opponents said the traffic study, which projects 19,000 vehicles per day, was not a correct analysis and should have shown additional traffic beyond the environmental report's projections.

"This is about the direction you want the city to go," said Wendy Kubos, who lives near the proposed project.

Clovis resident Ron Sundquist added: "We should take care of what we have first. ... We can have big stores, but let's do it in the right way."

But longtime Clovis resident Jo Ann Kelly said she supports Wal-Mart. "It will keep me from going to River Park," she said. "It's been studied to death and I don't think it needs to be studied anymore."

Council Member Armstrong sought a guarantee from a Wal-Mart official to keep the Shaw Avenue store open for 10 years.

He also said that there are not enough people to support three supermarkets within a one-mile stretch of Herndon Avenue.

Aaron Rios, Wal-Mart's spokesman, said the company bought the Shaw Avenue store and recently made $4.5 million in renovations. But, he also said it wasn't in his authority to make a 10-year guarantee that the store would remain open.