By Nikki Garrett Metzger
High Desert Daily
(Victorville)–The council chambers were packed to overflowing for the Victorville City Council meeting Tuesday night. Up for vote: a conditional-use permit and a needed zoning change for Walmart to build a Supercenter right next to the community of Spring Valley Lake along Bear Valley Road.
This issue has been hotly contested for six years, ever since Walmart first purchased the 15-acre parcel between Tamarisk and Ridgecrest roads. In its current capacity the property is zoned for professional office use, not for retail use, which Walmart would need to build a Supercenter on the location.
Community members filled the council chambers holding signs both supporting Walmart and protesting against the proposed Supercenter. During the 2 hour public comment period the main concerns brought forth by those opposed were the impact on traffic on Bear Valley Road, the noise and air pollution that could be caused by the semi trucks bringing merchandise along with the increase in cars to the store, pollution of the nearby water supply from runoff and possible flooding, and the danger to the children attending the nearby 5 schools. Many of those that spoke said that they were not opposed to Walmart, they were opposed to Walmart at this particular location.
Those that spoke up that were in favor of Walmart said they were in favor because of the location. Especially a store on this side of the 15 freeway. They were also in favor of jobs that the new Supercenter would bring to the community.
Representatives from Walmart gave a couple of presentations, one before the public comment period where they provided evidence of other retail centers located next to or very near schools in Southern California, and one after to address the public’s concerns. They explained how they plan to retain 100% of their water runoff: collecting water coming from south of Bear Valley Road and placing it in a de-silting basin, then place in concrete channel. Also they presented crime statistics for the area to prove that crime does not increase specifically around Walmart locations.
In the end, after all of the public comments, the presentations, and the rebuttals, the council members made their comments. Council member Jim Kennedy said that he felt the flooding issue was not actually an issue, that during the massive flooding in Spring Valley Lake eight years ago the worst flooding was on Country Club and not near the proposed Walmart location. Council member Angela Valles said she found Walmart’s presentation lacking, and said that she would not sell out to big corporation, “This vote is for the kids, it is for health, and it is for quality of life for the entire High Desert.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Rudy Cabriales said that the flooding would still be an issue even if Walmart did not build on that location, and that the air pollution argument was intriguing since 60,000 cars are already traveling through that area and it is not currently causing problems for those that may have asthma or other breathing issues.
The council voted 3-1 to approve the ordinance change, with council member Valles voting no and Mayor Ryan McEachron abstaining from the vote.