Auburn, CA. Wal-Mart Still Trying To Break Into Community After 15 Years.
How many years will Wal-Mart pursue a superstore site? The people of Auburn, California have been fighting for almost 15 years to stop Wal-Mart in their community.
On August 8, 2001, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart had dropped plans to locate a superstore in Auburn, CA. This community has more than its share of big box battles over the past decade and a half.
Residents celebrated a victory over Wal-Mart in 2001. They wrote to Sprawl-Busters: "In a surprising move Wal-Mart proponent Auburn 49 Associates withdrew their application for an extension of Use Permit No. 1915. In a letter to Placer County July 26, 2001 from Attorney Jeffrey F. Bordelon. This follows the remanding of the case back to the Placer County Superior Court. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a judgment on the Wal-Mart case, remanding the case back to the Trial Court in Placer County."
The Friends of Placer County, which fought the Wal-Mart, could only speculate on why developer Jim Conkey finally pulled the plug. "We expect that it had something to do with the Planning Department stating that there have been so many major changes in the situation that the developer would have to agree to additional conditions," residents told Sprawl-Busters. "The County maintained that it was not necessary to study the economic impacts of a mega-store on the area. Not true, a Third District Court of Appeal ruled, confirming the well-established rule that a California Environmental Quality Review Act (CEQRA) review must analyze economic impacts that may lead to physical effects on a downtown area. This was a cornerstone argument in our legal case against Wal-Mart. And again in the bruising battle with Home Depot in 1998 when the FPCC forced Placer County to change their policy on this issue. Home Depot was the first megastore in Placer County to be required to prepare such a cumulative economic impact study, and it was titled: Placer County Retail Market and Fiscal Impact Analysis. After that Home Depot quietly let their first application expire."
Fast forward 14 years. The Auburn Journal newspaper reports this week that a planned Costco in nearby North Auburn has been dropped, but Wal-Mart is still pushing forward with plans for a 155,000-square-foot store at an 18.6-acre property near Luther Road and Highway 49.
The Auburn Board of Supervisors approved the project in late 2010--more than 4 years ago. Wal-Mart bought the land, but the city was not sure if the project would ever happen. The project still has a number of hurdles to overcome, city planners told the Journal, including dealing with several other local, state and federal approving agencies, the proximity of the project to Union Pacific railroad tracks, the need for a bridge to carry traffic over one canal. Planner Gerry Haas told the newspaper, "Slowly but surely they're moving through the process."
At one point Costco and Wal-Mart were vying for the same 19 acre parcel near Luther Road. Wal-Mart ultimately bought the parcel, and Costco shifted its attention to county-owned land at the Placer County Government Center in North Auburn. But this week Costco sent a letter to city officials dropping its option on the land.
The Costco plan had been challenged in court by the city of Auburn and a group of concerned residents along the Highway 49 corridor. A lawsuit was also filed by a group called the Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment (APACE), which raised a number of concerns over dioxins that were deposited on the Wal-Mart site during a time decades ago when the parcel was a lumber mill. The Auburn Journal says that the group APACE is still trying to pursue its court case. A Placer County Superior Court ruling on the dioxin issue is under consideration to be heard in appeals court.
APACE says the so-called Bohemia Retail project is a 155,000 square foot Big Box 'power center' (approximately the size of 3 football fields) with all indications that it will be a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The Supercenter will generate 10,000 new daily car trips on Highway 49. It will operate 24-hours a day / 7-days a week. The development is located adjacent to a residential neighborhood with hundreds of families and children. Residents who now enjoy a skyline of trees and openness will instead see a Big Box store, a wall, and listen to the sounds of delivery trucks at the loading docks from 6:00 a.m. to Midnight everyday.
The development will have impacts to traffic along Highway 49 and roads feeding into Highway 49. The development will have impacts to air and water quality, will have socio-economic impacts to existing small and large retailers, and will compete with another approved Wal-Mart Supercenter in North Rocklin, California. Other than that, the project is fine.
What you can do: According to its website,http://www.apace2010.org/ "APACE is a grassroots movement of Auburn area residents. In late 2009, a group was formed after five homeowner associations representing over 600 concerned residents and families joined forces to stop the proposed Bohemia Retail Project.
APACE's was officially formed in Spring 2010 as an advocacy group, and our support and size has since grown to now represent the interests of many more citizens in the Auburn area. We advocate the development and growth the complies with the Auburn / Bowman Community Plan, supports existing businesses, and maximizes revenue to Placer County. We oppose all development that would defeat these objectives."
The group says the Wal-Mart developer "is afraid to be straightforward with the community. The developer, Mr. Jim Conkey, was quoted as saying, 'Costco is the frontrunner but nothing has been made official.'But 10-years ago Mr. Conkey was pushing a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the exact same site. That application was dropped because of community opposition to a Wal-Mart. So this time, instead of conducting an environmental impact study that looked at just a Wal-Mart, Mr. Conkey also included a 'Costco-esque' type store to be analyzed hoping to distract from his real goal of building a Wal-Mart Supercenter. However, the public has not been fooled!"
APACE believes the proposal will be a 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter. "Our members, who have attended every public hearing and meeting involving the Bohemia Retail Project, are not being fooled by Mr. Conkey's lip-service. And until Mr. Conkey is honest with the community, we will continue to believe that his project is a Wal-Mart.
The public spoke 10-years ago and the sentiment is still the same - Auburn does not need a Wal-Mart Supercenter!"
To learn more about this project, go to the APACE Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/122855144405740/