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City considering taking land from walmart using eminent domain { May 5 2006 }

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City to consider taking land from Wal-Mart
Prime bay property could be seized by eminent domain
- Patrick Hoge, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, May 5, 2006

The Hercules City Council will consider whether to use eminent domain to wrest a 17-acre property from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after the nation's largest retailer rejected a city offer to buy the site with views of San Pablo Bay, city officials said Thursday.

The council asked that a "resolution of necessity'' be brought to it for discussion, City Manager Mike Sakamoto said. The matter has been put on the council's May 23 agenda. Efforts to reach council members about Thursday's announcement were unsuccessful.

Wal-Mart bought the property overlooking central Hercules in November after another developer received city approvals for a neighborhood shopping center.

In February, city planners recommended denying Wal-Mart's proposal for a big-box store on its property, saying the plan was not in keeping with what had been approved for the location, which commands a view of one of the Bay Area's most vaunted New Urbanist communities, with pedestrian-oriented streets and large open-space set-asides, as well as sweeping views of the bay.

The company withdrew its application before it went to the city Planning Commission. In response, the City Council voted to make an offer for the land for an undisclosed amount of money.

On March 31, however, Wal-Mart submitted a new application that it said substantially conforms to city requirements. The same day the company submitted its revised proposal, Councilwoman Charleen Raines was hardly welcoming, although she said she had not read it.

"What the council has said is that we want to buy the property,'' she said, describing the tussle with Wal-Mart as a "David and Goliath'' struggle. "At this point, we're concerned about moving ahead on this property. It's been hanging over us for a long time.''

Wal-Mart's new proposal, which is still hotly opposed by some residents, calls for a general retail and grocery store, as well as a pedestrian plaza, two outdoor dining areas and other small shops and general merchandise stores, including a pharmacy.

"We're disappointed that the city is really playing politics with the future of Hercules rather than looking at the big picture,'' company spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said.

"Many residents of the city who we've talked to are frustrated and anxious for this much-needed retail project to move forward.''

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City considering taking land from walmart using eminent domain { May 5 2006 }
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