(April 9, 12:34 p.m.) A group seeking to overturn a ban on big-box stores in Salinas, Calif., submitted more than 7,000 signatures to the Salinas city clerk’s office for certification April 6.

“In the 14 days we collected signatures, Salinas residents spoke loud and clear,” said Alec Leach, president of Taylor Farms, Salinas, in a news release. “Time-and-time again we heard that our City Council needs to focus on what is important — creating new jobs, strengthening the local economy and fighting crime — not limiting consumer choice.”

Leach was unavailable for further comment.

The Salinas City Council voted 5-2 March 10 to approve an ordinance that would limit to 5% floor space for nontaxable items on any store of 90,000 square feet or larger. California does not charge sales tax on food and pharmaceuticals.

The city clerk has up to 30 working days to validate the signatures.

Many of Salinas’s largest produce companies have submitted comments to the city council against the ban, citing Wal-Mart’s importance as a produce buyer and the store’s potential contribution to Salinas’s tax revenue.

Supporters say if built, the new Wal-Mart would generate upwards of $800,000 annually in sales tax revenues and employ as many as 150 workers.

“On behalf of (Wal-Mart), we are thankful for the overwhelming support we have received from the Salinas community,” said Aaron Rios, senior public affairs manager for Wal-Mart, in a statement. “At (Wal-Mart), we believe that consumers should choose where to shop. We hope the City Council will respond to the will of Salinas residents and rescind this restrictive legislation.”

Rios was unavailable for further comment.

Last year, Wal-Mart purchased a vacant building once occupied by a Salinas Home Depot for $8.5 million, with plans to open a second, larger store.

After the ordinance passed, Salinas Consumers for Choice, a group funded by Wal-Mart, collected signatures for a referendum, which would most likely take place in November.

Supporters of the ban say a Wal-Mart Supercenter would jeopardize union jobs and higher wages, and local social services would pick up the tab for providing health services to uninsured Wal-Mart employees.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, who is also president of Royal Rose LLC, Salinas, a radicchio grower, voted against the ban. Donohue said the city needs to expand its retail base and that the best way for people to address their concerns with Wal-Mart’s business practices is with the company itself, not the city council.

Donohue said the council will probably review the signatures in June when it has the choice to either rescind the ordinance or place the referendum on the November ballot.