A group of northeast Modesto homeowners is suing the city over its approval of The Marketplace, a shopping center planned for 18 vacant acres at the southwest corner of Oakdale Road and Sylvan Avenue.
The City Council voted 7-0 last month to approve the project. The center would feature 170,000 square feet of retail space, including a 51,730-square-foot grocery store, rumored to be a Save Mart. Berberian Holdings is the landowner and developer.
Supporters say The Marketplace will be a state-of-the-art shopping center, with a design that will exceed city standards. They say it will bring sorely needed shopping and jobs to east Modesto.
Opponents say traffic from the center will clog already congested streets and that the project is not needed because of the tens of thousands of square feet of empty stores throughout east Modesto.
They fear The Marketplace will attract tenants from nearby shopping centers, leading to more vacant space. They are especially concerned that Save Mart will close its store at the nearby Lakes Shopping Center and open a new store at The Marketplace.
The Naraghi Lakes Neighborhood Preservation Association filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court. The lawsuit will seek an order from a judge invalidating the city’s approval of the project because it is not consistent with state environmental law and the city’s general plan, according to a news release issued by the association. The general plan serves as a blueprint for how Modesto will grow and develop.
Ripon attorney Thomas H. Terpstra represents the neighborhood association.
“The association’s decision to pursue litigation against the city of Modesto was not made lightly,” the news release states. “The association’s sincere hope was that its push to require full environmental review of this project’s devastating traffic impacts would cause the City Council to re-evaluate the wisdom of a project of this size at this location.
“Unfortunately, that was not the case. Even when confronted with evidence that the project would result in gridlock, the City Council dutifully endured hours of nearly unanimous public testimony against the project and voted to proceed without any meaningful mitigation of its impacts, despite clear inconsistencies with the general plan.”
City officials have said the project conforms with state environmental law and the general plan.
Interim City Attorney Adam Lindgren said the lawsuit was not unexpected. He said the city will be speaking with Berberian Holdings as it evaluates its legal defense, and he expects the city will actively defend itself against the lawsuit’s allegations.
Terpstra said developers typically put projects on hold when these types of lawsuits are filed against their projects. He said developers want certainty before they start building. But he said if Berberian Holdings starts construction, his clients may consider seeking a court injunction that would stop work while the lawsuit is being resolved.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.