Wildomar, CA. Wal-Mart Says Lawsuits Against Them Are "A Cottage Industry"
Wal-Mart had a few complaints to level recently against people who sue them to block their new big box stores. The retailer admitted that litigation can slow projects by a few months to several years.
The litigation comments came during proceedings in Wildomar, California, population 33,620, a community that describes itself as one of California's most recently incorporated cities -- "where natural beauty and a feisty spirit give rise every day to the optimism leading it to a future unlimited." Some feisty residents of Wildomar are battling a proposal to bring a huge Wal-Mart superstore to this small community, which will limit the city's economic future.
Wal-Mart wants to build a 186,000-square-foot store plus a 7,800-square-foot building for small businesses on its 22-acre property. "Once we put the first shovel in the ground, it takes about 350 days to open the doors," he said.
There is clearly no need for an additional superstore in Wildomar. According to Wal-Mart, there are no less than 20 stores near Wildomar, including Lake Elsinore, Murrieta and Temecula first on the list. But the retailer is seeking to further saturate its stores, and gain more market share in southern California. Residents looking for cheap Chinese imports have plenty of outlets to choose from.
A feisty resident of Wildomar sent the following email plea to Sprawl-Busters:
"Wal-Mart is building second and third buildings in Southern California at an unprecedented attack. All our flanks are over worked trying to put out the fires, however, people are paid by Wal Mart to speak, write, stand up, demonstrate in support of more Wal Marts. One of the ones that I know about will be Super Wal Mart in Wildomar. Please don't let them destroy this rural village of farms and wildlife and Oak Trees."
They have already started a Wal-Mart in Perris, California next to an old one. There is another one in hearings in Elsinore, California. This is all within 10 miles of each other. One in Menifee, California was put on hold because Wal-Mart refused to pay for the road widening on a two-lane road where Wal-Mart trucks were supposed to travel. There is an empty Wal-Mart in Hemet, California, and another 15 miles away in Murrieta. There is one in Temecula. These towns have 60, to 100,000 people. The citizens mantra is just jobs, low price etc."
This anti-Wal-Mart petition is circulating in Wildomar:
"We, the undersigned, do oppose the Super Wal-Mart planned for the field at Bundy Canyon, east of I-15 and Monte Vista Road, Wildomar, California. This building comprises of two buildings totaling 300,000 square feet that will forever change Wildomar from a rural community to a Vista or Mission Viejo type of Mega Retail Store look. We object to the blockage of the view of the Cleveland National Forests mountain landscape. WE OBJECT TO THE SLOWING OF TRAFFIC ON I-15. We object to the potential of blight being caused because Wal-Mart will close the competition in the area. Many jobs will be lost. Wal-Mart does not need any more buildings. Wal-Mart has 350 empty buildings across the U.S.A. that they do not intend to sell because they selected the most productive Wal-Mart in an area and the downtowns closed so they are the remaining retailer. We do not care if elder people in the surrounding town have to go to Super Wal-Mart in Temecula. They should support Stater Brothers or Albertson's. The Earth isn't here to provide convenience for them. By sacrificing building materials and open space which absorbs the CO2 AND HEAT THAT IS CHANGING THE WEATHER. Super Wal-Mart is a massive amount of asphalt and concrete deflecting heat and CO2 back into the atmosphere. Wal Mart can remodel Grape Street Store in Elsinore. No one can build sustainably if they take the open space."
According to the Press Enterprise newspaper, the Wal-Mart supertore was abruptly paused by the threat of litigation in Wildomar. An "eleventh-hour legal challenge" is delaying Wal-Mart's superstore project, the newspaper reports. A Wal-Mart PR spokesman, Phil Serghini told the media that the time frame for going forward with the project is indefinite now that a law firm has submitted a letter critiquing the project just two hours before Wildomar's City Council was scheduled to review the proposal this week.
Yet more than a month and a half ago, Serghini told the Wildomar Chamber of Commerce that he knew the Wal-Mart would face legal challenge. "We do expect this project to end up in litigation." Serghini told the Chamber at a meeting on January 7th. "We're extremely careful in developing the EIR (environmental Impact Report). The EIRs end up being tremendously big and detailed, we do that to protect ourselves from litigation."
The lawyer going after Wal-Mart is Cory Briggs, who has been described by Voices of San Diego as the lawyer feared by developers all across Southern California: "No attorney sues under the state's main environmental quality law more than him."
Serghini went on to described Wal-Mart's attitude towards lawsuits: "Assuming that we are approved in the planning commission process, there is someone that sues us regularly. It's like a cottage industry. That person has solicited information from Wildomar, along with other records requests, so we think we're going to be sued here, and once that happens we don't know how long that will take. The plan check process takes six months to a year to get the plans through the city."
When Wal-Mart was asked what was the longest amount of time between initiation of litigation and it being finalized, a Wal-Mart attorney told the Chamber of Commerce: "It could be anywhere from six months to three years." Serghini added that Wal-Mart's hired law firm has "been through this on a lot of different projects. We know where we've slipped up in the past, so we know where in the EIR process to really make sure we do it right. People get frustrated because it takes so long... if it were a different store, and different name than Wal-Mart we probably wouldn't have that problem. With Wal-Mart we cross every t and dot every i."
The Wildomar Planning Director revealed, "We did get a letter from the Briggs Law Corporation about 8 pages long... City staff and the applicant have not had enough time to digest what is in there. We've done a cursory review and because of that last minute---as we all it 'document dump'---Wal-Mart has asked us to continue this item to the March 11th meeting."
The Press Enterprise noted that at the recent hearing "council members appeared ready to approve it."
Another lawyer, Raymond Johnson, also submitted a letter raising concerns about the project. "They all have to say the same thing to set themselves up to sue the city," Wildomar's Planning Director told the newspaper.
Readers who want to support Wildomar residents should send an email to the city's Mayor, Ben Benoit, email@example.com with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Benoit,
The good citizens of Wildomar have plenty of places to buy cheap Chinese imports. According to Wal-Mart's count, there are at least 20 Wal-Marts near Wildomar. This kind of saturation does not enhance sales, but merely captures sales from existing merchants, and accelerates the process of abandoned retail buildings. These kinds of massive concrete structures are incompatible with residential properties, and if your community is going to tout its 'natural beauty,' you want to be careful that retail sprawl doesn't cover up whatever natural beauty you think is left.
This project is way out of scale, and should be substantially reduced. Unless restrained, Wal-Mart will build as large as you let them. The planning Board should either reject this project as being too intense a land use and inharmonious with your land use plan, or shrink it to size. Wal-Mart Neighborhood markets are 40,000 s.f. , far more appropriate for Wildomar."
What you can do: Readers who want to support Wildomar residents should send an email to the city's Mayor, Ben Benoit, firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Benoit,
The good citizens of Wildomar have plenty of places to buy cheap Chinese imports. According to Wal-Mart's count, there are at least 20 Wal-Marts near Wildomar. This kind of saturation does not enhance sales, but merely captures sales from existing merchants, and accelerates the process of abandoned retail buildings.
These kinds of massive concrete structures are incompatible with residential properties, and if your community is going to tout its 'natural beauty,' you want to be careful that retail sprawl doesn't cover up whatever natural beauty you think is left.
This project is way out of scale, and should be substantially reduced. Unless restrained, Wal-Mart will build as large as you let them. The planning Board should either reject this project as being too intense a land use and inharmonious with your land use plan, or shrink it to size. Wal-Mart Neighborhood markets are 40,000 s.f. , far more appropriate for Wildomar.
Planning boards and City Councils do not have to give these developers the plan they submit. Make the plan fit the zone, not the zone fit the plan."