Walmart EIR gets extended 45 days
Council gives nod in special meeting held on March 25
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By Jud Snyder  March 29, 2013 12:00 am

The long and often-tortuous road Walmart is lurching along to gain approval for a superstore in Rohnert Park moved ahead another notch Monday night. A four-member city council unanimously approved a resolution granting a 45-day extension so the public can examine changes made in Walmart’s environmental impact report. (Councilman Amy Ahanotu was absent).

The legal complexities are intimidating, but to spell out the decision in simpler terms, it means citizens can voice their opinions in the next 45 days but the only important comments they have to deal with are traffic impact, management of traffic noise and possibly whether or not the superstore fits in with RP’s General Plan.

Those are the only deficiencies a Sonoma Superior Court judge could find in the EIR. At the end of 45 days, it goes back to the planning commission. If their decision is appealed, it could go to the city council.

At their March 25 meeting, the council took only 25 minutes to approve their vote on this Revised Final Environmental Impact Review (RFEIR). Building and Planning Manager Marilyn Ponton outlined the crowded background. 

Walmart’s plans were first announced Jan. 21, 2009. It’s been under persistent protests ever since by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Sonoma County Conservation Action and the Living Wage Coalition. Their lawsuits finally reached the Superior Court level in June 2011.

Monday’s meeting was not only short, it was held in a virtually empty council chambers. Only two spectators spoke, and both Michael Veslor and Matthew Weinstein were against Walmart’s plans. Representing Walmart’s side was attorney Deborah Quick.

“I’m looking forward to re-opening the discussion,” said Councilman Jake Mackenzie.

Councilwoman Gina Belforte said, “No, this is not a delaying action. Walmart requested the 45-day extension.” 

Mayor Pam Stafford and vice-Mayor Joe Callinan had little comment.

Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Barnhill told the council, “I see no substantive reason why this process should not take place.”

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