By Imran Ghori | ighori@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise
Published: February 9, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Updated: February 9, 2018 at 6:43 pm

A Riverside County judge has sided with critics of the planned World Logistics Center in ruling that an environmental study for the project was flawed.

The Thursday, Feb. 8, decision by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters granted the request of environmental groups on a number of issues — though not all — raised in their lawsuits challenging the project.

Moreno Valley and developer Highland Fairview may need to do more environmental studies that would further delay the project that has been on hold since its 2015 approval. The judge has set a Thursday, Feb. 22, hearing on a proposed order.

Adrian Martinez, an attorney for Earthjustice, which is representing a coalition of environmental groups, called the ruling a “significant moment in the saga of this massive warehouse development.”

“The court was crystal clear that the environmental review document did not pass legal muster,” he said Friday, Feb. 9.

Highland Fairview spokesman Eric Rose said the developer was pleased with the ruling because it provides “a clear direction of what has to be updated in the environmental analysis.”

“The ruling brings us one step closer to starting construction on the World Logistics Center,” he wrote in an email.

Rose added that the center would bring “thousands of much-needed jobs to the community.”

Moreno Valley City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz said Friday that he had not yet seen the ruling and had no comment. Kenneth Bley, an attorney for Highland Fairview, also said he had not read it and declined to comment Friday.

Planned for 2,610 acres on the city’s eastern end, south of the 60 Freeway, the warehouse complex would be the size of 700 football fields and one of the nation’s largest. A traffic study found that the project would draw 68,721 vehicle trips a day, 14,006 of which would be trucks.

When it was approved, city officials had said the the first half of the complex would be built by 2022 with the remainder by 2030. It’s not clear how the lawsuits have affected that schedule.

Environmental groups suing over the project allege that its environmental impact report did not properly address problems the project could create. The city and Highland Fairview say they have followed all state environmental requirements.

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