No Wal-Mart plaza … for now
An appeals court decision just delays the inevitable in Paradise
A controversial 59-acre shopping center at the Skyway entrance of Paradise won’t be going in any time soon as Save Our Gateway scored a victory—albeit a minor one—over big-time developer Fred Katz.
An appeals court agreed with the grassroots citizens group regarding an environmental-impact report, but all this has done is merely prolong the inevitable. Save Our Gateway chairman Mike McLaughlin, a 30-year Paradise resident, just hopes he and his group can steer the direction of the project to something the town can live with.
Both McLaughlin and Katz left the courtroom in November unclear on how the 3rd District Court of Appeals’ decision would swing. When all was said and done, the three-judge panel this month upheld the Butte County Superior Court’s finding that the environmental-impact report was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act—especially in dealing with the disposal of the thousands of gallons of wastewater a project of that size would generate.
The Paradise Town Council met Tuesday (Jan. 23) for a closed-session meeting to discuss its next move. Although no official decision was reached, Vice Mayor Scott Lotter told the CN&R on Wednesday morning that the project moving forward will essentially come down to making the necessary changes in the wastewater capacity of the project.
“I don’t see any reason for [the project] to be scaled back,” Lotter said, explaining that Katz’s development firm, FHK Companies, already has taken the necessary steps to more than double the wastewater capacity.
FHK showed recently that the site could now handle more than 28,000 gallons of wastewater per day, but the recent appeals court decision was based on the initial study, which showed it would only be able to process 12,000 gallons.
“They’re not going to stop it,” Lotter said of Save Our Gateway. “They’re just delaying it and costing the town a lot of money.”
Lotter is referring to the sales tax leakage the town loses each year to Chico—estimated at about $2.5 million. According to the EIR for the equally contentious Wal-Mart project proposed for north Chico, a Supercenter has also been mentioned as an anchor store for the Paradise shopping center, although Katz has said nothing would be confirmed until FHK jumps through all the legal hoops.
Save Our Gateway’s contention that the shopping center would cause blight at the scenic entrance of Paradise off The Skyway didn’t hold up in court. However, McLaughlin is hopeful that with FHK having to re-certify the EIR, the project will exclude a larger anchor store.
“We want to focus on having this project include smaller shops that are aesthetically appealing,” McLaughlin said.
For the past seven years, McLaughlin’s group played part in a classic David-and-Goliath tale—small-town citizens vs. the giant development firm. After the Paradise Town Council approved the project, SOG was able to gather enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot, but residents voted in favor of the project by a 60-40 margin in November 2004.