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Consistent, If Not Compatible
by Ron Davis
Plans for a new shopping center is Hanford, CA, have won court approval despite vigorous opposition by a group of local residents.
The shopping center, which will be known as Hanford Station, will include a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a variety of other retailers. Its location, however, stirred up a controversy over its potential impact on air quality and the preservation of farmland.
Hanford’s general development plan has, however, anticipated the development of a major retail project on the property since 1985. Hanford Mall, a Home Depot store, and a smaller Wal-Mart currently exist on contiguous land zoned for planned commercial businesses. Moreover, in 2002, Hanford officials updated their general development plan to recognize that the population of Hanford “will continue to grow and there will be a need to provide adequate commercial land to serve the needs of existing and future populations.”
Nevertheless, opponents of Hanford Station challenged the environment-impact report that gave a green light to the project. They contended that local officials failed to adequately analyze the project’s bearing on air quality and human health. In particular, they wanted to know the human health risks resulting from any reduction in air quality caused by the project.
Moreover, the opponents said they saw no evidence that the project conforms to Hanford’s land-use policies.
In response, Hanford officials pointed out that a detailed analysis of human health risks resulting from the shopping center’s air-quality impact is not required for approval of the project. All that’s needed, they added, is to identify the possible effects of certain pollutants on human health.
The officials also pointed out that the project lies within and is contiguous to the planned commercial development zone established in 1985 and updated in 2002.
A California appellate court, in its ruling approving the project, explained, “In adopting its general [land-use] plan, Hanford officials were required to balance a wide range of competing interests. It is difficult for any project to be in perfect conformity with every policy contained in an applicable plan. Hanford officials therefore had the discretion to approve the project, even if the project is not consistent with all of the general plan’s policies. It is enough that the project will be compatible with the objectives, policies, general land uses, and programs specified in the applicable plan.” (Hanford No on Wal-Mart Supercenter v. City of Hanford, 2006 WL 1727938 [Cal.App. 5 Dist.])
Decision: July 2006
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