Walmart turns to ballot measure to get residents’ approval on Supercenter
February 02, 2011 8:13 PM
Tomoya Shimura

APPLE VALLEY • Walmart has withdrawn its town permit application and is instead turning to residents to help decide the fate of the proposed 24-hour Supercenter in Apple Valley, company officials announced Wednesday.

The national retailer on Jan. 25 withdrew its application for the entitlement permits necessary to build the new store, according to Lori Lamson, Apple Valley’s assistant director of community development.

The same day, Walmart submitted a ballot initiative that could leave it up to voters to voice their support for the project.

Walmart withdrew its application two weeks after a group called Creed-21, represented by Upland and San Diego-based attorney Cory J. Briggs, appealed the town’s approval of the permits Jan. 11. The Apple Valley Planning Commission had approved development, conditional-use and special-use permits for the project Jan. 5.

But Walmart officials said their decision to file a ballot initiative had nothing to do with the appeal. The company had notified the town they planned on pursuing the ballot initiative before the appeal, said Aaron Rios, Walmart’s senior manager of public affairs.

“We are doing this to show that we have the overwhelming support from the community,” Rios said Wednesday. “I believe this is the most efficient way to get this store open as soon as possible.”

Once the town approves the ballot measure proposal — which Rios said should happen within a week — Walmart has 180 days to collect the required signatures. Rios could not immediately provide the number of signatures necessary.

Walmart is asking residents in support of the new facility to sign a petition at its store on Highway 18, Rios said.

“The town of Apple Valley has been tremendous to work with, from the staff to the Planning Commission to the Town Council. All have been communicative about the needs of the town and its residents,” Rios said in a company news release. “They have not been a barrier, but rather active partners who understand our goals and support our desire to demonstrate the overwhelming public support for this proposal through the petition process.

“Unfortunately, in many areas around the state, we often obtain new store approvals but are met with outside special interests that use political challenges to delay our projects, negatively impacting our customers and the cities,” Rios added.

Briggs has represented anonymous citizen groups that have opposed several planned High Desert Walmart and Target stores. The groups have cited concerns over environmental issues.

Briggs declined to comment on the most recent Apple Valley appeal — including who comprised Creed-21— saying the matter concluded once Walmart withdrew the application.

The new store would be built at the southeast corner of Dale Evans Parkway and Thunderbird Road. It would replace the existing Walmart about a mile away off Highway 18.

Town officials had previously said the project could begin construction as early as September.

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