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Wal-Mart may revive Rohnert Park expansion

Wal-Mart may revive a controversial plan to expand its Rohnert Park store with a 32,000-square-foot grocery — a proposal approved by the city two years ago but then stopped in court.

"We're evaluating the next steps and working with the city on the requirements established by the judge's ruling," said Wal-Mart West media director Delia Garcia.

She was referring to a 2011 decision in which Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau said parts of the environmental report for the project were inadequate.

Ruling on a lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart opponents, Chouteau ordered the sections addressing traffic mitigation and noise impacts to be redone.

Garcia did not say whether that has happened. But she said: "We are committed to serving our customers in Rohnert Park. We want to be able to serve them better. Expanding that store .<TH>.<TH>. would accomplish that."

Rohnert Park officials Friday said the project's return would boost a city struggling to strengthen its economic base.

"That's exceptionally good news for the city," said Linda Babonis, the city's economic development manager. "Jobs creation, in this day, right now, is a great thing."

If the company renews its bid to remake its Redwood Drive store into a Wal-Mart Supercenter, it may reignite one of the more divisive issues the city has dealt with in recent years.

The City Council in 2010 overturned its Planning Commission's earlier unanimous rejection of the Wal-Mart plan. That infuriated opponents who had argued that not only was the project's environmental report inadequate, but that it violated parts of the city general plan.

The council, on a 4-1 vote, said the commission had been wrong, that the project's benefits outweighed its potential negative impacts and that it was consistent with city land-use policies.

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