By Mario Conde

The Calexico City Council voted to recertify the Gran Plaza Outlet Center project and had its ground breaking ceremony.

This project came back to the City Council for recertification of the final environmental impact report and re-approval of the general plan amendment, zone change, tentative tract map, design map, design review and variance first heard on December 20, 2011.

Within hours of the December 20, 2011 Council meeting, the City received objections for the first time from the County of Imperial, the Briggs Law Corporation representing CREED-21 and Citizens for Honesty and Integrity in Calexico, and from El Remate, Inc., through Brenda Martinez. Following the hearing, the City deciding to have the matter reheard on January 10, 2012; however, on January 9, 2012, the City was sued by the Briggs Law firm’s clients, and a decision was made to delay the hearing. The purpose of the hearing was to reaffirm and clarify the prior approvals in light of the City’s review of the project, its consideration of the late comments, and the substantial evidence in the record to support all of the finding necessary for the approvals.

The project applicant’s traffic engineer, John Boarman, met with the County to address the County’s concern, which it raised. The County’s concerns have been largely addressed in the conditions of approval, he said. Malissa McKeith, an attorney representing Gran Plaza, said this project will have great benefits for the City since the market in Mexicali will benefit the project.

Objections were made by Martinez on behalf of the El Remate swap meet concerning the failure of the FEIR to include the swap meet in the analysis of potential urban decay impacts which may result from the Project. Although El Remate also mentions the Santo Tomas swap meet, the City has not received any communication from Santo Tomas.

Unlike the project, the El Remate swap meet is an outdoor facility that primarily operates three days a week. It claim that the construction of the Gran Plaza will adversely affect its business and lead to blight. El Remate has an office associated with the swap meet operation on the property; however, the shopping area and temporary stalls are located outdoors.

The staff report says that even with the opening of Walmart and Imperial Valley Mall the swap meet business has not been affected. The proposed $94 million dollar Gran Plaza Project is expected to bring $140 million dollars in annual sales tax revenue to the City of Calexico and provide 268 full time jobs and 617 part-time jobs

The Council approved the Gran Plaza project by a vote of 4-0 having Mayor Pro Tem Maritza Hurtado being absent from the meeting. The Council had the ground breaking ceremony for the Gran Plaza afterwards.

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