Walmart was dealt a setback this week in its efforts to open a store in Burbank when the judge hearing a lawsuit filed by three local residents to block the store’s construction was reassigned just days before a hearing to schedule a trial.
Just how much of a delay the reassignment of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones — who will now act as supervising judge of budget planning and administration for the court system — will cause is not certain.
But Jones is one of six judges who hear cases involving the California Environmental Quality Act, which is one of the issues at the center of the Walmart case.
Drew Sugars, a spokesman for the city, said officials were “hopeful that there will be no delay so the issue can move toward resolution.”
Meanwhile, Walmart spokeswoman Rachel Wall said the company stands firm in its contention that Burbank properly issued building permits for the new store, which is expected to be built in the former Great Indoors adjacent to the Empire Center.
The company had planned to open the store in mid- to late 2013.
“These delays only serve to slow access to an affordable shopping choice for residents and hundreds of jobs in Burbank, including contract construction jobs and about 300 store positions,” Wall said in a statement. “We continue to hear from the community that there is a demand for the store.”
Gideon Kracov — the plaintiff attorney for Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo — contends that a city-approved ordinance mandates that two street improvement projects be completed before the permits could be issued.
He also contends that another environment impact review must be conducted because a Walmart will generate significantly more traffic than a furniture store.
An injunction halting any construction on the Walmart remains in place. Attorneys for Walmart recently lost a bid to have a Superior Court judge hear an appeal of the injunction because he said he didn’t have jurisdiction.
Walmart attorneys said they plan to file an appeal.
Meanwhile, Kracov said he is ready to go before a judge — whoever that may be — at any time.
“We’ll be ready for trial whenever that is,” Kracov said. “We believe we have a strong case and that’s why the injunction was issued in the first place."
Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam