CERES -- Nearly a year after a group sued Ceres and Wal-Mart over a supercenter at the citys south end, neither side has presented its case to a judge because both continue to grapple over what evidence should be allowed.
Citizens for Ceres filed suit Oct. 12, a month after the City Council unanimously approved the 300,000-square-foot Mitchell Ranch Center anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter at Mitchell and Service roads.
The lawsuit claims that the city committed a prejudicial abuse of discretion when the council certified an environmental impact report that fails to sufficiently identify, analyze, disclose and mitigate significant environmental impacts from the project.
Specifically, the lawsuit claims the report failed to evaluate the projects potential to cause urban decay, physical deterioration and blight, and has an inadequate health-risk assessment, among other things.
Citizens for Ceres isnt seeking damages. Instead, it hopes to convince a judge to overturn city permission for the project, including the environmental impact report.
Since the lawsuit was filed, the two sides have been arguing over whether thousands of documents should be included in the administrative record presented to the court for consideration.
What remains in dispute are 700 documents, mostly e-mail exchanges between city officials and Wal-Mart.
Ceres City Attorney Mike Lyions said the documents are protected under attorney-client privilege or are irrelevant to the case. He said the majority of the e-mails were exchanged prior to the City Councils vote to approve the Mitchell Ranch Center and had no bearing on the decision.
None of those documents were submitted to the decision makers; in this case, the City Council. They are preparatory matters, Lyions said.Wa
A Stanislaus Superior Court judge in July sided with the city so the plaintiffs went to the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Fresno for a second opinion.
Our group continually requests transparency from our city and Wal-Mart, and we will not stand for more lip service and red tape, said Citizens for Ceres spokeswoman Sherri Jacobson.
Last week, a Court of Appeals judge ordered a stay in the trial court proceedings to allow time to review the groups request.
All proceedings in trial court are frozen until the a decision is made.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366.