Story & photo by Gary George
A letter to the Daily Press claiming that the SVLA Board of Directors was preparing to sell out for a possible “one million dollars” and allow the 24-hour Walmart outside our community to be built filled the room for a board meeting on January 27.
“There never has been a settlement offer from Walmart. The rumors are not true-absolutely false,” Scott Eckert, SVL board president told the crowd.
Attorney Cory Briggs, veteran of dozens of suits against Walmart, and who represents SVL, said that while Walmart has occassionally settled suits, that “they have as much money as God and can afford to wait everyone out.” He added later that he had never done a settlement in a Walmart suit that involved money.
That wait so far has been eight years and counting. The project was announced in 2006 and was fought by a SVL contingent led by Scott Eckert for six years until the Victorville City Council approved Walmart’s plans in a 3-1 vote on September 19, 2012. SVLA sued the next month on a variety of issues, a trial was held in May 2013, and a ruling was made in August 2013 by a San Bernardino court that set aside the project approvals and ordered a supplemental environmental report for on-site electricity and greenhouse gases. SVLA’s objections on zoning, traffic, crime, drainage and other issues were denied.
In September 2014, the court order overturned Victorville’s project approvals and in November Walmart appealed. That same month, SVLA counsel advised the board that the project could probably be delayed a few more years but Walmart would eventually prevail.
Counsel suggested various settlement conditions, but no dollar amount was suggested to him by the board. Meanwhile, our board has budgeted to continue the fight through 2015.
Briggs told the crowd that to win, SVL must have the support of politicians and the community, otherwise, “you are merely delaying the store’s opening.”
If Walmart wins their appeal, the project will go back to the Victorville City Council for re-approval.
“And Walmart can count to three, the number of councilmen who have to approve it,” said Briggs, adding that the appeal would be decided by the middle or end of 2016 and that appeal courts usually lean toward Walmart.
Briggs then stated that Walmart will remedy the issues that are holding the project up.
Later, Eckert posed a question to the crowd, “Are we willing to take it to the end? Where we get nothing?”
An audience member later flipped the question back to the board, “Do you want a Walmart without a settlement or a Walmart with a settlement?”
Briggs jumped in. “Please do not ask that question publicly,” Briggs said, alluding to the game of poker and adding, “Walmart’s playbook is 2000 pages long.”
“We’ve done everything we can for eight years to stop this,” said Eckert.
Heard at the Board Meeting
Cory Briggs: Victorville would make $500,000 a year in taxes from this Walmart.
Attendee: Walmart might be asked [in a settlement] to shoulder the costs of gating our community to increase security.
Attendee: A Walmart store makes $800,000 to a million dollars a week.
Attendee: The strength of the case is that Victorville did not follow its city plan and rezoned the land.
Cory Briggs: The rumors in the Daily Press are not good for SVL.
Glenn Grabiec (SVL general manager): We have spent $70-80,000 on lawyer fees so far. We can easily double that in the next year.
Scott Eckert: Walmart has a pretty good record of building stores where it wants.
Briggs: Walmart talks to me because I file a lot of lawsuits against them.
SVL WEBSITE Letter from BOD President
The Tamarisk Market Place issue was discussed in detail at the Board Meeting last night, 1/27/15. If you were unable to attend the meeting read the message below to update yourself on the facts of what is taking place with the Tamarisk Market Place Project.
Just the Facts: Tamarisk Marketplace
Rumors appear to be running rampant that the Spring Valley Lake Association Board of Directors (BOD) are close to giving up the fight to prevent Walmart from building near Spring Valley Lake, and in the process, will essentially receive a “pay-off” from Rothbart Development/Walmart.
Don’t give in to the hysteria; this issue is too serious to allow it to become a public relations debate.
As was presented at our most recent board meeting on January 27th, the Spring Valley Lake BOD has not entered into any settlement agreement on this issue and has filed a cross-appeal in court.
Even after many years of legal wrangling and no clear indication about whether the project will or will not proceed, at some point in time the BOD will have to give serious consideration about what it wants to do-and at what cost. There is no timetable for when that decision must be made.
The BOD have to continually look at the advantages and disadvantages about pursuing legal action of any kind, whether it be against Walmart, any other large development affecting the community or defending the Association against civil action. As with expenditure of any Association funds, we must ensure that those funds are not being spent frivolously.
Understand, the BOD, (property owners in their own right), are just as concerned about the Walmart project as many who have expressed opposition, but the BOD, in collaboration with competent legal counsel, must decide a future course based on facts, not emotion. Rest assured, when the BOD are close to making a decision, Spring Valley Lake residents and the community-at-large will be informed and provided clear justification leading to whatever decision will be made.
Until then, as I’ve indicated… don’t give in to the hysteria and don’t be influenced by rumors that may be floating around out there; seek out the facts. This is a very serious issue for our community. The BOD and the Association will continue to provide factual and timely information as our legal case progresses.
Scott Eckert, President
Spring Valley Lake Association Board of Directors