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Wal-Mart revived expansion bid in Rohnert Park postponed

Wal-Mart's bid to expand its Rohnert Park store into a superstore, which was to continue Thursday at the Planning Commission with the company's submittal of a revised environmental report, likely will be postponed.

"We received a letter from Wal-Mart representatives asking us to present to the Planning Commission . . . a request to continue the matter to Jan. 24," planning and building manager Marilyn Ponton said Thursday.

The item will still be introduced and granting the request remains up to the commission. But with no Wal-Mart officials expected to attend, the postponement is near certain.

Delia Garcia, Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said Thursday the company wants more time for the public to review documents.

"While the Revised Final EIR has been publicly available for more than two weeks, we have requested a postponement in an effort to ensure that all parties are properly notified in advance of the Planning Commission meeting. On behalf of the thousands of customers we serve every week, we remain committed to renovating and remodeling the Rohnert Park Walmart," she wrote in an email.

News of the expected delay pleased the project's opponents, who had complained that the public didn't have enough time to study the new report, which was revised on a judge's order.

"In terms of maximizing public input and the public's right-to-know, the postponement is very good," said Marty Bennett, co-chairman of the Living Wage Coalition, which has fought the expansion plan since its inception.

Wal-Mart wants to add about 35,000 square-feet of grocery and retail space to its Redwood Drive store, which is about 20 years old.

The Planning Commission in 2010 rejected an earlier environmental report, a decision that the City Council soon overturned. The Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action then filed a lawsuit challenging the report's adequacy and the council's ability to overturn the commission vote.

Judge Rene Chouteau in 2011 ruled that sections of the environmental report needed to be redone but said that the council had acted within its bounds.


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