The Tehachapi Department of Planning and Community Development staff and consultants are compiling responses to an attorney’s challenge to the construction of a Walmart in Tehachapi.
City staff and the Environmental Impact Report consultants carried out a conference call April 14 to discuss their progress, reported Community Development Director David James.
“We are still forging ahead and staying in touch,” James said. “It will be a couple more weeks until it’s finalized.”
Documents challenging the EIR were delivered to City Hall on March 28, the day the City Council heard an appeal of the Planning Commission’s 4-1 approval of the project. Tom Schroeter, attorney for the city, advised the City Council to delay a vote until the issues could be reviewed and addressed. He said recent case law obliges the city to respond to all comments, even ones that come in at the 11th hour.
Attorney Cory Briggs of Upland and San Diego, representing an organization named CREED-21, submitted the documents with a letter urging the city council to “uphold the appeal and deny the project,” saying it would violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Briggs’s “Reasons for Denying Project” relate for the most part to greenhouse gas emissions and water. The eight pages of reasons were accompanied by an index of exhibits that includes copies of letters signed by Briggs and Walmart attorneys indicating settlements in various cities.
In an April 14 interview with the Tehachapi News, Briggs said his office sent the documents at the last minute because “I want to see everything the City Council is going to see” and that he needs to know what the City Council members have been told by city staff.
“We’re commenting on the whole package.”
Briggs said he is representing the public on environmental issues and he does not understand why Walmart won’t just “do it right.
“If they did it right out of the box, I wouldn’t have to write comment letters.”
He said he and the Walmart attorneys are familiar with each other and with the issues.
“They already know what issues I’m going to raise. Why haven’t they fixed it?”
Briggs, who said he has been a practicing attorney for 16 years, has sued and settled with Walmart and other big box stores, but he does not know what the outcome in Tehachapi will be.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do until I see the responses. If they’re not legitimate… sometimes they give you BS answers. Sometimes they blow you off.”
He said not all his challenges end up in lawsuits.
“The ones I sue over are not even a third,” he said.
“CREED,” Briggs said, “is a non-profit, grass-roots organization that promotes better environmental projects and participation by the community by taking advantage of the laws that allow for public participation and promote government accountability.”
He did not give specifics but said the four- or five-member CREED board of directors is registered with the Secretary of State.
Briggs said he lives in San Diego and has not stopped in Tehachapi but “I’ve been through it.” He said he rode horses here when he was child.
He said he was not available for comment following the March 28 hearing because he was in Argentina watching orcas.
Briggs said there are four attorneys in his firm. He said he attended the California Western School of Law in San Diego and George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“I’m not trying to stop the project. I’m just trying to make it better,” Briggs said.