3:38 PM PST, December 4, 2012
Walmart officials on Tuesday said they will take their case for starting construction on a new store in Burbank to a state appellate court after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled he doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
Walmart has been fighting an injunction preventing work on a new store adjacent to the Empire Center in Burbank.
The injunction also forced the city of Burbank to suspend its approval of building permits pending a trial. A Superior Court judge ruled on Thursday, though, that he did not have jurisdiction over the appeal to the injunction.
“We are moving forward with our appeal of the injunction because our contention remains that our permits were issued validly,” Walmart spokeswoman Rachel Wall said in a statement. “The facts show that the city of Burbank properly issued the building permits for the Walmart store just as they have with the 1,200 previously issued permits in the Empire Center.”
Superior Court Judge Richard O’Brien said he wanted to take a “more prudent approach” because construction would have to halt anyway if the three plaintiffs — Burbank residents Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo — prevail at trial.
The trio filed the lawsuit earlier this year to block construction of the Walmart, which the retailer had planned to open in mid- to late-2013 at the former Great Indoors.
A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14 to set a trial date for the case.
Gideon Kracov, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the case is a “David-and-Goliath battle,” but the injunction at least keeps the project from getting underway.
“The injunction means that WalMart is not above the law and must follow the rules just like Burbank’s small businesses and residents,” he said.
Kracov also said that a new environmental impact review needs to be conducted to see how much more vehicle traffic the Walmart would generate. Street improvements mandated in a city-approved ordinance must also be completed before permits can be issued, he added.
“It doesn’t take an expert to tell you that a WalMart with full grocery will cause a lot more traffic than the closed Great Indoors furniture store,” Kracov said. “The city never publicly studied the traffic from a Walmart with 30,000-square-foot grocery, especially under current conditions and with the I-5 interchange construction that will seriously disrupt traffic flow.”
The California Department of Transportation plans to start construction of an expanded interchange along the Golden State (5) Freeway at Empire Avenue in mid-2013, according to spokeswoman Kelly Markham, essentially replacing the off- and on-ramps at Scott Road.
-- Mark Kellam, Times Community News
Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam