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Supes deny North Auburn Wal-Mart/Costco appeal by opponents

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County supervisors gave their support today to the controversial Bohemia development, clearing the way for a court battle over a possible Costco or Wal-Mart in North Auburn. The board voted 5-0 to deny an appeal filed by the Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment (APACE) after the county planning commission approved the proposal for a 155,000-square-foot store in July. Supervisors heard from 35 speakers during the hearing – including 21 in favor of the project – before deciding to uphold the planning commission’s 6-1 vote on a use permit and environmental documentation. Steve Cavolt, project coordinator, said after the meeting that opponents of the project would have to think seriously about mounting a court challenge after the board vote and public turnout in favor of the Bohemia plan. “The people spoke and the Board of Supervisors did the right thing,” Cavolt said. “What it demonstrated is that people want their shopping opportunities and convenience.” Throughout the process toward the appeal, APACE has never ruled out court action. The group was represented by attorney Tal Finney, who argued that several issues – including asbestos hazards on the site and traffic backup concerns from Caltrans on Highway 49 – had not been adequately addressed. But Bohemia attorney Jim Moose said the work to get the project this far was a success story, with the developer listening to people’s concerns. With today’s decision, Victoria Connolly, an APACE member, said that the group will need to take some time before deciding exactly what it’s next step would be. Placer County planning division staff supported denial of the appeal. The project had also been given a 4-1 vote of support in June by the North Auburn Municipal Advisory Commission. Supervisor Jim Holmes, whose district takes in part of North Auburn, said he felt the questions on the appeal had been adequately addressed by staff. He added that developer Jim Conkey was not asking for a rezoning and had listened to nearby residents about reversing plans for using Canal Street as a secondary access to the project. Holmes asked for two large oak trees to be preserved on the property and delivery times be reduced from 6 a.m. to midnight to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Conkey said the oaks are located at the delivery area and while he agreed already to try to save them, “There’s just no way we can save those trees.” Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said she read the Auburn Bowman Community Plan four times and found arguments for or against proceeding with the project. She said, however, that the 1994 plan did target the 18-acre site for commercial development. During the public hearing, area residents filled almost all the 100 seats in the board chambers in Auburn to express their views over an undeveloped patch of land that has had its future debated since at least the early 1990s. “I’m astounded that this man has to jump through the hoops he has to,” said contractor Del Rapini. “If it’s zoned properly, there are things you can do and things you can’t. This area does need this. It will bring jobs.” Larry Smith, a Luther Road area resident, said he supports an owner’s right to build but that the development should contribute to the quality of life of the community. “There’s concern about jobs,” Smith said. “The jobs will come back. But this store will stay forever. Look at the long-term consequences.”