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Wednesday, Jan 15 2014 06:00 AM

Council schedules Walmart hearing

The Tehachapi City Council has set a date for a hearing to consider the appeal recently filed on behalf of Tehachapi First in response to the Tehachapi Planning Commission's majority vote which certified the Environmental Impact Report and building project for the proposed Walmart project.

The hearing is slated for 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 27, in the Tehachapi High School cafeteria, located at 801 S. Dennison Road.

Speaking to the potential outcomes of the upcoming meeting, City Manager Greg Garrett said "Should the council majority agree with the planning commission, the next step would be to return the project to the courts for Judge [Kenneth] Twisselman's review and determination of the lawsuit."

Otherwise, "Should a majority of the council disagree with the planning commission decision, the project would be shelved and Walmart would need to decide their own course of action," Garrett said.

The Planning Commission was the last body to review the project. It approved the final draft of the revised EIR and building project on Dec. 9 with a 3-2 vote. Shortly thereafter, San Francisco attorney Mark Wolfe filed an appeal to the City of Tehachapi on behalf of Tehachapi First, the local citizens group that opposes the Walmart project.

The two commissioners who voted in opposition were Sonja Wilson and Marisa Folse, who cited incomplete or inconsistent data in the final draft of the revised EIR.

Wolfe had previously sent a letter to the city shortly before the Planning Commission's meeting, asking the committee to delay action on the matter, citing an insufficient amount of time for the public to review the amendments made to the EIR.

"The [Final EIR] contains dozens of changes to the revised draft EIR and more than 100 pages of comment response and new analysis," the letter states. "It is unreasonable to expect the public to review and digest such a large volume of new material in so short a period of time."

Back in 2012, the city was required to make amendments to the report after Judge Kenneth Twisselman said he found that "substantial evidence does not support the city's contention that there was a good faith effort for full disclosure with a reasoned analysis of environmental consequences" for the project.

As a result, Twisselman required the city to revisit the matter, considering the impacts of the proposed Walmart project on water, traffic and noise.

"We feel the problems from the beginning are still the same problems," Tehachapi First member Shannon Turner said.

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