It was formally announced at the January 11th Big Bear Lake City Council meeting, that the City lost its high-profile legal dispute regarding the controversial development of what would have been the third grocery store in Big Bear Lake. A divided City Council voted 3-2 to approve the addition of another grocery store at the site right next to Stater Bros. and across from Vons.

Citing legal and safety concerns, Councilman Lee joined with the residents in opposing the project. Councilman Lee has long championed the need for a major retail department store to replace the long-closed K-mart, as opposed to prioritizing an additional grocery store. The lawsuit was brought by Big Bear Lake Together, an association of Big Bear Lake residents. The lead plaintiff opposing the City and the out-of-state developer was Big Bear Lake resident, Pat Prodrouzek.

Long-time respected community volunteer, Ms. Gloria Meade, filed a petition signed by more than 100 Big Bear Valley residents, urging the City Council to reject the grocery store project. The City Council heard from dozens of residents opposing the project, including a retired Big Bear Fire Captain who lives less than half a mile from the project. The former Fire Department official testified that, based on his experience, the site was not safe or suitable for the proposed development.

The City Council deadlocked 2-2. Once newly appointed Councilmember Perri Melnick was seated (she replaced Councilman Dave Caretto, who had unexpectedly resigned) she sided with Council Members Herrick and Putz to approve the grocery store project with a 3-2 vote.

Among the allegations contained in the lawsuit were (1) the City failed to follow the necessary legal process, (2) the City abused its discretion and (3) the City prevented the public from participating in the process in a meaningful way.  The lawsuit was filed in the California Superior Court of San Bernardino County on September 9, 2021. The City residents asked the Court to overrule the City Council's approval of this project. As a result of the lawsuit brought by Big Bear Lake residents, the developer agreed to withdraw the project and the City agreed to withdraw its approval. 

Although the developer agreed to reimburse the City $15,097.62 for legal costs incurred fighting on the developer's behalf, the taxpayers are still on the hook for an additional $45,757 in legal costs and $7,920 in consulting fees related to the City's failed attempt to advance the developer's project.

"There is no question the proposed site was unsafe for our community. If there is a real desire for a 3rd grocery store, it should be built in the east end of the valley to better serve our community there, or at least, at a safe and suitable location in Big Bear Lake. The City wasted over $53,000 and countless hours of staff and City Council time fighting its own residents, not to mention the displaced family, with children, that was forced to move to clear the way for the failed project. I hope the City learned from this failed process so we are not wasting tax dollars in the future. We would have been better served to listen to our community and focus our energy on a K-mart replacement," said Councilman Lee.