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2006-07-05
Turlock, CA. Wal-Mart Loses Third Court Case On Size Limit Ordinance

Wal-Mart looked at a third strike this week, as a federal appeals court rejected the giant retailer's claim that a zoning ordinance in Turlock, California, which caps the size of buildings, violated its constitutional rights. The ordinance bans big box stores that exceed 100,000 s.f. and have an interior square footage selling non-taxable goods, like groceries, that exceeds 5% of gross area. The ordinance is more specific than a simple size cap, because it regulates the types of products sold inside the store. A home improvement center, for example, is not subject to the Turlock ban, but a discount store/grocery store combination would be affected. When Turlock passed the ordinance in February of 2004, Wal-Mart filed an appeal in state and federal court, and began a two year effort to overturn the law. The California courts showed little interest in Wal-Mart's arguments. The Stanislaus county Superior Court rejected Wal-Mart's case, and when Wal-Mart appealed, so did the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now the federal court in Fresno has sided with the city, leaving Wal-Mart batting 0 for 3. In addition, the city of Turlock is now fighting back financially. The California State Assembly's Judiciary Committee has passed legislation that would allow Turlock to sue Wal-Mart for attorney's fees. Turlock Mayor Curt Andre traveled to Sacramento recently to testify in favor of the bill. The city says it has spent at least $370,000 in legal fees fighting off Wal-Mart lawsuits. "The amount we have spent on this is a drop in the bucket compared to what we would have had to spend on work following a Supercenter coming to town," Turlock City Councilwoman Bev Hatcher told the Turlock Journal. "I still believe we made the right decision."

What you can do: More details on this court decision will be made available once Sprawl-Busters reviews the opinion in detail. Wal-Mart has not challenged most size cap ordinances, because size caps are perfectly within the mainstream of local zoning powers, like placing a limit on the height of buildings. But because the Turlock ordinance was more narrowly focused on supercenters, Wal-Mart went after this ordinance legally. For earlier stories on this subject, search Newflash by "Turlock."










 
 
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