Walmart in Burbank

Walmart plans to open a store at the former Great Indoors building at the Empire Center in Burbank. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Walmart will pay for the city of Burbank's defense against a lawsuit filed in an effort to block or at least stall the world's largest retailer's plans to open a store near the Empire Center.

The City Council has decided to defend the lawsuit, which alleges certain street improvements must be made before the Walmart can open, council members hired the Costa Mesa-based law firm of Rutan and Tucker during a recent closed-session meeting.

Later, City Atty. Amy Albano announced the decision during an open meeting and said Walmart would pay for the defense costs.

Albano said Walmart is obliged to pay for the defense under an agreement reached with the developer of the Empire Center in 2000.

Before the Empire Center opened, Sears bought property in the development to construct a Great Indoors store. Walmart then bought the building last year.

Albano said in a phone interview that even though the property is technically not part of the Empire Center, the provision in the development agreement regarding entitlements and litigation remains with the property.

“They step into the shoes of the developer,” she said. “This is very commonplace in other cities.”

-- Mark Kellam, Times Community News

Twitter: @LAMarkKellam