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Bohemia project wins support

North Auburn MAC panel recommends Wal-Mart-Costco plans
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Plans for a Wal-Mart-Costco-type store in North Auburn are on their way to the Placer County Planning Commission with the blessing of the North Auburn Municipal Advisory Council. The council voted 4-1 today to support plans by Roseville developer Jim Conkey for a 155,000-square-foot, single-story building and 18-pump gas station on 16 acres near the Luther Road-Highway 49 intersection. The proposal now goes to the Planning Commission on July 8. Council member Larry Farinha made the motion to support what is being called the Bohemia project after Chuck Rydell was unable to find a second for his motion to recommend denial of the project. The council had heard from more than a dozen people who spoke against the project. Many more in the crowd estimated at about 100 provided applause, particularly when speakers said they supported a Costco on the property but not a Wal-Mart. Most speakers objected to the idea of a Wal-Mart locating in Auburn but others cited air pollution, traffic congestion and public safety concerns. No one in the audience spoke in favor of a Wal-Mart. Conkey has said Wal-Mart is an option but no agreements have been reached and nothing has been decided yet. Farinha said it was unfortunate that it’s still unknown who the Bohemia tenant will be. “I’m sure the property owner has heard your comments but you can’t tell him what he can or cannot build,” Farinha said. Farinha added that most of the negatives would turn into positives by the time the retailer – whoever it is – opens its doors for business. “It’s not going to be as bad as you think,” Farinha said. Rydell, in making his failed motion to recommend denial, said it’s the council’s obligation to support the will of the majority of people who live in the area. “It’s not fair to force a high impact project on this quiet neighborhood,” Rydell said, to heavy applause from the crowd. Lee Lively, of recently formed opposition group Alliance for Protection of our Auburn Community Environment (APACE), said Wal-Mart is “damned throughout the country” and he was hoping county officials would stop “with this ‘unidentified occupant charade.’” Tom Dwelle, co-owner of Nella Oil and a Flyers gas station nearby, said traffic congestion would reach gridlock levels if a big-box store is located on the former Bohemia lumber mill property. “A big box store in our beautiful town wouldn’t fit,” Dwelle said. “It’s too small for that project.” Victoria Connoly, another APACE member, said she received Roseville Police Department information that showed 48 calls to Costco and 122 to Wal-Mart in two months. Connoly said the socio-economic impact of a big-box store on that site hadn’t been studied enough. Voting with Farinha in support of the project were council members Greg Wilbur, Ken Gregory and Mark Watts. The Planning Commission will take up the Bohemia project’s application for a conditional use permit, minor use permit and environmental clearances. Steve Cavolt, spokesman for the project, said after the meeting that there was false information about traffic and other impacts during the meeting but the council ultimately made the right decision. Cavolt and Conkey were at the meeting but did not address the council. Cavolt said similar concerns were expressed before Target, Best Buy and Home Depot were built in North Auburn. “But it never happened,” Cavolt said, describing Farinha’s comments as “the most appropriate and intelligent” of the evening.