Council upholds appeal by 'Keep Taft Great.'
Taft isn't going to get a discount grocery store after all.
The Taft City Council unanimously upheld an appeal by a group challenging the city approval of a prosed Grocery Outlet Store on Supply Row Tuesday night, and the developer says he doesn't see a road forward for the project.
The Council vote came despite several local residents speaking in support of the Grocery Outlet Project and against the opposition.
"Somebody is hiding behind a veil and threatening the city with legal action," said former councilman and Mayor Paul Linder.
Business owner Eric Cooper said he "strongly supported the project and said the opposition is "outrageous and despicable."
Attorneys for a group they call "Keep Taft Great" said environmental studies for the store are inadequate and the Taft Planning Commission's approval was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.
"We are not here to kill this project," said Shaune Arnold, who, along with Tal Finny of Finney/Arnold LLP has represented the opposition. "We are here to see that this project is built in accordance with public law."
But the developer charged that "Keep Taft Great" is a fictional group and the real issue was Albertsons trying to keep competition out of Taft.
Even the Council, like the Planning Commission before it, seemed skeptical of the existence of the group.
"I find it astounding that we have never heard of or know anybody in 'Keep Taft Great,' Mayor Dave Noerr said.
Councilman Josh Bryant said there is a lot of support for the proposed store.
"Anybody you ask around town will tell you another grocery store is desired and needed here," he said.
Greg Aguirre, managing principal of Capital rivers LLC said the Council's decision effectively kills the plan to build the 18,000 square foot store on a 3.14 acre parcel.
It is located next to a Dollar General that was built in 2019 with no opposition.
"We have to evaluate all the options and none of them are good," he said after the Council vote. "Right now its dead. For all intents and purposes its dead.”
Noerr said the Council upheld the appeal to ensure that it was in accordance with CEQA.
"We want to make sure that if and when the project goes through, all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed," he said.
When Noerr was told that Aguirre said the project was dead, he replied "That would be extremely unfortunate.”
But Aguirre said the City also faced the threat of a lawsuit.
"If the City had approved it, they would probably be liable for a lawsuit," he said.
Aguirre said Capitol Rivers spent $150,000 so far on the project.
He said they could do more studies, but even then the opponents could hold the project up.
"The problem is if we start over its at least $50,000 work for