Costco-Wal-Mart plans win Placer County staff backing

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Plans for a Costco-Wal-Mart-type store in North Auburn are going before the Placer County Planning Commission Thursday with support from the Planning Department. For developer Jim Conkey and project proponents, it’s an important show of support. For opponents, it’s a disappointment. Steve Cavolt, spokesman for the Roseville developer, said today that the staff recommendation adds more weight to support for the project given last week by the North Auburn Municipal Advisory Council. “Jim Conkey has done everything the county has asked,” Cavolt said. “The environmental impact report speaks for itself and that’s why the staff report recommended approval.” Lee Lively, of recently formed opposition group Alliance for Protection of our Auburn Community Environment, said that the Planning Department and county Community Development Resources Agency didn’t meet its obligations to citizens. “As a group, we’re disappointed but not surprised with the recommendation,” Lively said. “We think CEDRA’s responsibilities begin and end as advocates of the citizens of Placer County. It appears the documents they’ve prepared are more in line of apologetics for Bohemia Properties.” A staff report is recommending the commission approve a conditional use permit for the Bohemia retail project, located near Highway 49 and Luther Road. It is also supporting environmental impact clearances and a minor use permit for an off-site sign on Highway 49 that would direct motorists to the proposed store’s Hulbert Way entrance. Until the staff report was issued this week, staff planner Gerry Haas and the Planning Department had remained neutral on the project. Cavolt said Bohemia Properties is hopeful that the Planning Commission will side with the staff report. “If you do all you’re supposed to, why wouldn’t the project be approved?” Cavolt said. “That’s the way it works if you’re in compliance with everything.” Lively said Bohemia opponents have built up a substantial list of objections to the proposal and problems with the environmental impact report that will be used during a possible court challenge. The final bill for the environmental impact report is now approaching close to $400,000. Today’s decision by the Planning Commission is likely to be appealed no matter what it is. That would set up a second showdown – this time before the Board of Supervisors. Plans call for a 155,000-square-foot, single story building ranging between 30 and 35 feet in height. With neighbors in residential areas concerned about high traffic volumes, Conkey agreed in the spring to a new plan that would route all incoming and outgoing traffic into the development along Highway 49. Plans also call for a six- to eight-foot soundwall along Canal Street as a noise and visual barrier. The environmental report identifies several significant or potential impacts, including noise, traffic, air quality and socio-economics. Judged significant and unavoidable were air-quality impacts from greenhouse gases and traffic impacts for northbound left turns at Highway 49 and Dry Creek Road. ------------------------------------------- What: Bohemia Retail Project (Wal-Mart-Costco-type store) hearing When: 10:05 a.m. Thursday Where: Planning Commission Chambers, 3091 County Center Drive, North Auburn