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2003-09-28
Tucson, AZ. Wal-Mart Lawsuit Against Tucson Big Box Law Is Thrown Out.

Money can't buy legal decisions -- or at least, not all legal decisions. A judge in Pima County, Arizona Superior Court has tossed out this week a lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart against a zoning law in Tucson. Wal-Mart filed the suit against the city's "big box" law, which requires a review process for retail stores greater than 100,000 s.f. in size, and limits the sales of non-taxable items inside the store to 10% of floor space. The law was passed in 1999 (search "Tucson" in this database), and Wal-Mart later tried to gather signatures to put the ordinance before the voters. That effort by Wal-Mart fizzled as well. When Wal-Mart took the ordinance to court, it argued that the city's Mayor had violated open meeting laws by faxing memos to council members, but the judge ruled the Council never met or discussed the matter privately. The judge also disagreed with Wal-Mart that the Tucson law was unconstitutional. He said Wal-Mart had the right to get involved in the drafting of the law, and that cities have a right to enact zoning laws regulating the combination of grocery with retail sales, and such laws help protect the health, safety and welfare of local residents. Wal-Mart said the law was designed to protect smaller groceries from competition, but the judge said that the law allowed the City Council to grant variances, and that existing stores were grandfathered by the law. The City argued that Wal-Mart could have asked the city for an exemption for any store it wanted to build after the law was adopted. In essence, the court ruled that Wal-Mart had not yet been harmed in any way by the law, since it had not been denied approval for a store, and had not asked for an exemption. Wal-Mart told the Tucson Citizen newspaper that it was "disappointed that the shopping choices of the residents of Tucson have been limited", and said the company was "reviewing all of our options...to allow Tucson citizens to shop in the store of their choice without restrictions." Wal-Mart has challenged a number of similar ordinances in other communities that limit the interior sales space of a retail store, often by putting the laws on the ballot, rather than going to court.

What you can do: For similar stories, search this database by Martinez, Inglewood and Contra Costa. Or search by "size cap". This is an important legal precedent, because it affirms the right of communities to pass ordinances that regulate the size of buildings for public purposes.










 
 
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