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Wal-Mart Sues to Overturn Supercenter Ban

SAN FRANCISCO - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. filed a lawsuit yesterday to overturn an Alameda County, Calif. law that would forbid it from building supercenters, The Associated Press reports.

Observers say the move marks the world's largest retailer's latest attempt to pave the way for a major California expansion.

The Alameda County Superior Court complaint seeks to quash the ban for several reasons, including a claim that the county's board of supervisors exceeded its authority by passing a law that imposes "unusual and unnecessary restrictions on lawful business enterprises."

Three other California communities, Contra Costa County and the cities of Oakland and Martinez, have approved similar laws to block Wal-Mart supercenters.

Monday's suit marks the second time Wal-Mart has turned to the courts to reverse a community ban on its supercenters, company spokeswoman Amy Hill said. The retailer is currently attempting to revoke the Contra Costa County ban with a voter referendum in March, and is also embroiled in a long-running legal battle in Tucson, Ariz.

The first of Wal-Mart's California supercenters in slated to open in the Riverside County city of La Quinta in March.

In other Wal-Mart news, the retail giant could be doing business in the Big Apple within 18 months with a scaled-down version of its giant discount stores, retail analysts speculate.

Sources told the New York Daily News that Wal-Mart's new "urban prototype" store, which opened in Tampa last week, is perfect for the city. The scaled-down supercenter is 99,995 square feet in size.

"This makes sense for New York. They've certainly been looking for space here, and something under 100,000 square feet gives them a lot more choice in terms of location," said Faith Hope Consolo, vice chairman of Garrick-Aug Associates Store Leasing. "I think they'll be in the city in the next 18 months."

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman told the Daily News, "It's just a test right now. But if it works, it will give us more flexibility in markets with less developable space such as New York."
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