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North Auburn big-box showdown slated for July

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The wait for a Placer County Planning Commission showdown over a big-box Wal-Mart or Costco-type store off Highway 49 in North Auburn will have to wait a little longer. The Planning Department had targeted June 24 for a Planning Commission hearing on a use permit for the 16-acre Bohemia property. But Planning Director Michael Johnson said Friday that the anticipated date has been moved back to the next meeting July 8 because the state-required final environmental impact report is not expected to be ready until June 18. The Planning Department was expected to have a draft of the final environmental documents Friday and while the process has taken longer than initial projections there have been no issues delaying work, he said. Developer Jim Conkey is proposing options on the site that include a commercial complex with several buildings or one 155,000-square-foot structure that could house a Costco, Wal-Mart or other retailer. While zoning is already in place, the project needs a use permit and environmental clearances. Steve Cavolt, a spokesman for Conkey and the Bohemia project, said the decision to set the proposal’s hearing back to the July meeting of the commission was not due to anything the developer had done. “Obviously, delays are never a good thing,” Cavolt said. “It’s unfortunate but it is what it is. But we’re going to deal with it. Our side is all complete.” The project is being opposed by a newly formed group of Auburn-area residents that calls itself Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment (APACE). Lee Lively, APACE secretary-treasurer, said his group is mounting its own drive before the hearing and one before the Board of Supervisors later in the summer to inform area residents about the economic dangers of the Wal-Mart they believe is being pushed through. APACE has already distributed 6,000 fliers and has a website as well as a Facebook page. Lively lives near the Bohemia property, which is named for the former lumber mill that occupied the site. “It will also trash this neighborhood but our major objection is over Wal-Mart and how it destroys local economies,” Lively said. Cavolt said APACE represents people in the area who are against anything being built on the site. Lively said the organization would accept development that fits into Auburn Bowman Community Plan principles that call for buildings that fit into the character of the area – not 155,000 square-foot stores next to residential neighborhoods. Conkey isn’t identifying a particular business for the parcel because he doesn’t know who it’s going to be, Cavolt said. Lively said the lack of tenant identification is a dodge to try to keep anti-Wal-Mart forces at bay. “I’ve told them time and time again that no deal is signed and won’t be until the project is approved,” Cavolt said. “It’s a small group that doesn’t want any development at all.”