SUISUN CITY — After six years of controversy that included an unsuccessful recall and a lawsuit, Suisun City is expecting to see ground broken for its anticipated Walmart supercenter in September.
The national retailer that the city is depending on for its financial salvation pulled a grading permit for the site on the west side of Walters Road and the north side of Highway 12, and is working on mitigation to offset the site environmental impacts, according to Suisun City Community Development Director April Wooden.
“I would say in the next eight weeks that they intend to officially break ground,” Wooden said.
Unless another wrench is thrown into the works, the city expects Walmart to open its doors in late 2014, before the start of the holiday shopping season.
It has long been touted as the economic salvation of Suisun City’s financially strapped budget, with the expectation that the store will generate about $1 million in sales tax revenue a year. Suisun City’s general fund budget is less than $10 million a year.
Walmart got its final regulatory agency approval to start construction of the 182,000-square-foot supercenter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently and received approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week.
The Walmart grading permit was pulled last month. Work crews plan to get as much work done preparing the site as possible before the winter rain season starts, according to Wooden.
“When they start construction (in 2013), it will go quickly,” Wooden said.
Building the Walmart store and parking lot will fill in 2.35 acres of wetlands and .28 acres of a stream channel. Part of the mitigation is to be done at Lynch Canyon in the hills between Fairfield and Vallejo, with other mitigation to be done in eastern Solano County. The 1,039-acre Lynch Canyon open space area is owned by the Solano Land Trust and operated by Solano County as a park.
At Lynch Canyon, Walmart will restore and improve 1.43 acres of wetlands and 1,637 linear feet of creek at the headwaters of Lynch Creek. Water board staff noted that Lynch Creek ultimately flows into Suisun Marsh, as does the channel on the Walmart property.
The city and Walmart are also looking to replace and rebuild a sound wall along Peterson Road. Suisun City officials plan to talk to affected city residents before the work starts and work with them to make that part of the project as quick and unobtrusive as possible.
Opponents have not counted themselves out, even at this stage of the struggle.
Taxpayer advocate George Guynn, who opposed seeing Walmart put on the east Suisun City site, said, “we are not done, as far as I am concerned.”
A group, which called itself Save Our Suisun, managed to slow the Walmart approval process for several years and was a factor in getting several modifications to the plans. The group opposed a Walmart in that particular site and opposed original plans that they said would unfairly impact that area.
Suisun City managed to fend off a lawsuit from the group that contended the city did not create an adequate environmental impact report on the project in 2009. It also battled its way through SOS’s objections to mitigation plans that were put before the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Guynn said the group is waiting until the project’s final permits are dealt with before deciding what further actions to take, if any.
Walmart officials said earlier this year that the retailer was unlikely to drop the project if it encounters more roadblocks.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.