Judge rejects referendum against Walmart

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A judge has ruled that opponents of a plan to open a Walmart grocery store in downtown Springfield cannot use the referendum process to overturn the city’s zoning decision allowing the market.

The City Council earlier approved a zoning plan allowing for a Walmart Neighborhood Market on the property owned by the Life360 church. But a citizens group opposed to the idea submitted a referendum petition that put the decision to a vote.

Life360 church then filed a lawsuit seeking to block the election.

Visiting Vernon County Judge Gerald McBeth heard arguments from the church, the city and several petitioners last week. He was appointed to hear the Greene County case after all the Greene County judges recused themselves.

In a judgment entered Tuesday, McBeth ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying the referendum power is in “direct conflict” with procedures in state statures on zoning and planning.

Marla Marantz, a resident who opposes the downtown Walmart, said she was disappointed in the ruling.

“We have been preparing for this decision either way and plan to continue to move forward with our options,” Marantz said. She did not elaborate on how the group expected to proceed.

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