Walmart battle enters its next phase

Walmart has filed a motion seeking to lift an injunction that has prevented the retailer from constructing a store in Burbank prior to the outcome of a lawsuit brought by three residents.

The motion was filed last week after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge granted both sides more time to prepare for a trial in which the residents are attempting to block construction of a Walmart at the former Great Indoors site adjacent to the Empire Center.

The residents claim city officials erred in issuing the building permits because they did not adequately address impacts to the surrounding streets.

Walmart and the city have maintained that the permits are valid and that the retailer is clear to work on a new store.

“Our contention remains that our permits were issued validly so we are pursuing options that allow for future employment opportunities and affordable shopping choices in Burbank,” Walmart spokeswoman Rachel Wall said Monday.

The three months of additional time granted by the judge for the trial could further delay Walmart's plans to open at the former Great Indoors site, where no work has been allowed since the injunction was issued by the court in August. And the judge, Ann I. Jones, did not appear willing to allow a time crunch to factor into the court's schedule, telling attorneys, “I'm not in a hurry anymore.”

The defense may include updated information from Burbank's traffic engineer, said Katherine Jenson, an attorney representing the city.

The three Burbank residents — Shanna Ingalsbee, Katherine Olson and Yvette Ziraldo — filed a lawsuit earlier this year to stop construction of the Walmart until another environmental impact review is conducted and street improvements that are part of a city ordinance passed in 2000 are complete.

The improvements include more turn lanes at key intersections on Buena Vista Street at Victory Boulevard and Empire Avenue.

Gideon Kracov, the attorney representing the women, argued that only information that was available when the city issued building permits to Walmart should be allowed.

A hearing on the motion to lift the injunction is scheduled for Nov. 28.

Jones said a trial-setting conference will be held on Dec. 14. However, she added that attorneys for both sides must submit a letter by Dec. 7 affirming that all additional information has been gathered and made available to Kracov, who also represents United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770.

Follow Mark on Twitter @LAMarkKellam.

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