Bill could mean trouble for new Calif. big box stores

September 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A bill on the governor's desk right now could make it much more difficult for new big box stores to open in California. It's a bill that worries many small towns hoping to get a store like Walmart in their community.

Like many communities in California, The town of Galt hopes to get a Walmart built on a vacant lot. Residents can't wait for the construction and retail jobs and city leaders envision the desperately needed sales taxes.

"All of our revenue is going out of town," Galt Mayor Barbara Payne said. "Where it really pains me to see what happens to our schools."

But a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk would make it harder for big-box stores to come to California. The proposal requires that Walmart and other retailers pay for and submit an economic impact report. It aims to give local leaders a better understanding of the impact such a development could have on existing businesses.

"Are we going to end up with net new jobs or are we going to end up eliminating good jobs that we already have and bringing in jobs that are potentially low wage jobs, not necessarily the jobs we want in our community," California Labor Federation spokesperson Caitlin Vega asked.

Big projects in California are already required to go through an environmental review. Opponents fear an economic review would cause further delays. Information from such reports sometimes leads to lawsuits, which could take years to settle.

City and county leaders from around the state urged Brown to veto the bill, saying they should be able to determine whether they want a big-box store in their town. They also criticize how it only applies to certain big box stores. Membership stores like Costco are exempt.

"If we allow the state to dictate what types of retailers will be allowed in our communities, we lose all the power to improve the communities as our communities see fit," League of California Cities spokesperson Chris McKenzie said.

Galt was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel from endless lawsuits on the Walmart project, but a signature from the governor would blur the date on when they can break ground.

"We thought we were at our last litigation and this could delay it more," Payne said.


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