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Supercenter EIR comment period on
Those with comments - pro or con - on the anticipated environmental impacts of the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its anchor tenant, a Walmart Supercenter, proposed for an empty field at Service and Mitchell, roads have until July 6 to get them in the record.

The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the 26-acre project debuted last month and examines potential impacts on Ceres, including noise, traffic, pollution and economic impacts. The document is about 2,500 pages long and took 30 months to complete. The document is available on the city of Ceres' website at

The document is expected to be reviewed publicly at a Ceres Planning Commission meeting and then before the Ceres City Council, which has ultimate say whether the project is built or not. The dates of the hearings depend on the volume of public comment.

"Technically we're asking for comments on the impacts," said Senior Planner Tom Westbrook. "If it's just your opinion on the project itself, it's hard to address those ... right now we're just seeking opinion on the technical aspect."

City officials who will be making the decision have said they will go through the entire process before deciding pro or con.

City officials have known since 2008 that Walmart plans to close the existing Ceres store at Hatch and Mitchell after initially declaring it would operate both stores. Aaron J. Rios, Wal-Mart's Senior Manager for Public Affairs and Government Relations, said Walmart has a department which "re-tenants" store buildings that are vacated "as quick as possible."

Section 4.5 of the draft EIR addresses how the Wal-Mart Supercenter would affect existing businesses and what might happen when Wal-Mart abandons its existing store location at Mitchell and Hatch roads.

"Because of the new store and its grocery component, there's not a significant increase in tax from the new store to the old store," said Westbrook.

The document suggests that the project "may result in

closure of competing businesses" but that "this impact is less than cumulatively considerable."

The report suggests that the Supercenter would capture 16 percent of Ceres' grocery sales, which could impact stores like Save Mart and Richland.

The draft EIR is subject to a 45-day review and then will be reviewed by the Ceres Planning Commission and the City Council. Those initial hearings will be limited to the thoroughness of the EIR and not the project's merits itself, he said.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter is the anchor of the proposed 26-acre project at the northwest corner of Mitchell and Service roads. The proposed building site is owned by Florida-based Regency Realty Group, the company proposing development. The entire center will consist of 304,000 square feet of retail space with two fast-food pads but the Supercenter will take up 208,172 square feet. The store would devote 36,167 square feet to grocery sales, including fresh produce, seafood, bakery, meat, and deli. Other service uses may include a bank, vision center, and hair salon.

Rios said more than 8,500 area residents have joined the Walmart Customer Action Network in support of the Supercenter project.