Monday, February 11, 2008

Media: Wal-Mart uproar comes down to council's vote

By Carol Bogart Daily Republic

UISUN CITY - Not since the city demolished apartment buildings, bars and bait shops in the late 1980s and early '90s to redevelop the waterfront and Civic Center Drive has an issue drawn hundreds to city meetings.

The proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter is the first project since then to provoke such strong attendance, said Councilwoman Jane Day, who added it is 'much more organized.'

On Tuesday, the Suisun City Council will settle the feud that has split the city. Councilmembers will cast their votes on whether to override the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission's November 2007 decision that the project would create public safety issues for Travis Air Force Base.

Travis officials have said they have no such concerns.

Although the meeting starts at 5 p.m., the City Council is braced for an exhaustive evening that could stretch into the early morning.

Councilmembers will first decide whether to follow the Planning Commission's recommendation that the council certify the environmental studies for the project at Walters Road and Highway 12. The council will also review documents related to the airport commission's 'adverse use' decision.

A public hearing will allow residents and others one last opportunity to speak.

Because the issue has emotions running high, there was a visible police presence when the Planning Commission met Jan. 29 to address the project. City officials are preparing for an even larger turnout Tuesday.

If four of five councilmembers vote to override the airport commission's decision, they will pave the way for the project to move forward.

Councilman Sam Derting said although last thing he wants is for the project to divide the city, 'I ran on a platform to bring businesses to this city, to put businesses on those empty (Highway 12) lots that have sat vacant for 30-plus years.'

Councilmen Mike Segala and Derting may be most at risk politically with the vote, given they could seek re-election in November.

Some opponents of the project have vowed to launch a recall of any councilmember who votes to override.

Segala pointed out that three Highway 12 parcels zoned commercial drew no interest from developers until the city launched a series of improvements aimed at improving traffic flow.

Now, he said, developers are interested.

'It was a matter of time' before a developer submitted an application, Segala said, and 'the application before the council now is Wal-Mart's.'

Sales tax revenue projected from the supercenter would go into the city's General Fund while the property tax will go to the Redevelopment Agency.

Mayor Pete Sanchez lives at Lawler Ranch, directly across from the Wal-Mart site. Although 'personally' he would prefer to see the supercenter go somewhere less likely to disrupt neighborhoods, he said the city 'doesn't have the luxury of time to wait for annexation.'

Sanchez doesn't intend to 'preside over a bankrupt city,' he said, adding 'there will eventually be a retail box (store) there anyway.'

Reach Carol Bogart at 427-6955 or at

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