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2005-04-10
Turlock, CA. City Wants Wal-Mart To Pay For Frivolous Legal Bills

The city council in Turlock, California is considering a measure that would force Wal-Mart to pay for the city's legal bills if its lawsuit against a city ban on superstores fails. Wal-Mart's legal appeal has already been rejected by one court, and the city has set aside $210,000 in a general fund reserve to defend itself from the retailer's legal challenge. Wal-Mart sued last year to overturn an ordinance that bars certain types of large discount stores. "They are just harassing us," one city councilor told the Modesto Bee. "Instead of being good stewards in the corporate world, they are being bullyish." The city says the Wal-Mart lawsuit was 'frivolous'. But Wal-Mart shows no remorse. "It is unfortunate that the city forced taxpayers to bear this costly burden instead of allowing their residents to have the same choice as millions of other Americans to shop at a Wal-Mart Supercenter, where they can save as much as 17 to 20 percent on their grocery bill," a Wal-Mart spokesman said. The Turlock ordinance bars most new or expanding discount stores that are at least 100,000 s.f. and devote at least 5% of their space to groceries and other nontaxable items. Wal-Mart sued in February 2004, claiming that the council abused its zoning power. A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge upheld the city's ban in December, but Wal-Mart is still appealing. The chain also has sued in federal court, claiming violation of its right to conduct commerce, but that case has not had a hearing. The city council has said that local governments should be given the right to "gain relief from frivolous lawsuits through judgments giving reimbursement to a victorious party."

What you can do: Wal-Mart often tries to get by litigation what it is unable to achieve by regulation. If they don't go to court, they try to go to the ballot to overturn city or town ordinances they don't like. More than any other retailer in history, Wal-Mart tries to use its power to overwhelm local communities and rewrite their zoning codes to better fit the company's business model. But good zoning means making developers fit into the city's plan, not vice versa. For earlier stories on Turlock, search the Newsflash database by the name of the city.










 
 
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