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Emotions run high at North Auburn meeting on Costco-Wal-Mart-type big box store

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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If they weren’t apparent already, the battle lines were crisply drawn Wednesday at a meeting between nearby residents and the developer of a proposed Costco-Wal-Mart-type big-box store in North Auburn. About 50 residents on the west side of Canal Street attended the town-hall style meeting with Roseville developer Jim Conkey. Many of the residents of subdivisions that would be neighbors to the 155,000-square-foot retail center strongly expressed their disapproval of plans for a secondary access off Luther Road to Canal Street. The access would send traffic to an entrance at the rear of the development but residents don’t want the extra traffic. Conkey, who has owned the land since 1987, said he’s “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” with Placer County Transportation, Caltrans and developers all wanting the access. Nearby residents, like Ken Beames, were adamant that the extra traffic the access would create should stay off Canal Street and come through the main entrance off Highway 49 or another location. Beames forecast the added traffic would create unsafe conditions for children, particularly at a private park on Canal Street, spur vandalism that would increase dues for homeowners association members and drop the value of homes in the area. “If you agree to not provide Canal Street access, a lot of these problems go away,” Beames said. “I’m not willing to risk my children’s health, safety or their lives.” Conkey remained equally as adamant with the group that he had no choice and accepted the fact that people would oppose the project because of the access along Canal Street. “You get to fight me – it’s your right,” he said. “I cannot deny that.” The Canal Street access is projected to carry 15 percent of the store’s traffic – or 900 cars a day. “We have to agree to disagree,” Conkey said. “Caltrans, the county and tenants I’ve talked to want it.” Don Mayfarth expressed concerns over outside traffic using what are now side roads as drivers seek another route to avoid a traffic light at Canal and Luther. Conkey has agreed to pay for the light as part of the development. Mayfarth said the commercial development should abandon the Canal Street access plan. After the meeting, residents said they expect a showdown Feb. 25 when the draft environmental impact report for the project goes before the Planning Commission. Joe Knapp, a 26-year Erin Drive resident, said he’s going to be approaching the Planning Commission with questions about whether the current zoning allows the access. Foreseeing trash, parking and safety problems, his stance is that the project’s planned access point will ruin the neighborhood and lower property values even further. Sandy Ferguson, an Erin Drive resident for 23 years, said she came away from the meeting feeling “defeated.” “We were under the impression we could offer our concerns but he’s dead set on the Canal Street access,” Ferguson said. Conkey mentioned Winco Foods, Sam’s Club and Costco as stores that would want an access. Costco has been the most active prospective tenant, he said. But Conkey added that he’s not negotiating with any particular one until after approvals from the county are in hand. That approval should include Canal Street access, he said. “If I give you what I want, I don’t have a project,” Conkey said.