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Wal-Mart comes with promise of more tax revenue for Placer

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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While Wal-Mart lays the groundwork for a move into the Auburn marketplace, Placer County is anticipating a jump in tax revenue when it opens. Purchased last December from Bohemia Properties, the 18-acre Wal-Mart site is located outside Auburn city limits in unincorporated North Auburn, near the Luther Road-Highway 49 intersection. An analysis by Economic Research Associates as part of the Wal-Mart site’s environmental review in 2009 estimated a discount store would bring in revenue totaling $637,554 annually. That’s compared to a Costco or club store’s $898,000 or a home improvement center’s $465,000. The money would go into the county’s general fund. Additionally, property taxes for a developed Wal-Mart store over and above what the land is now worth would generate $210,000 in property-tax revenues annually for the Placer County RedeveloWhile Wal-Mart lays the groundwork for a move into the Auburn marketplace, Placer County is anticipating a jump in tax revenue when it opens. Purchased last December from Bohemia Properties, the 18-acre Wal-Mart site is located outside Auburn city limits in unincorporated North Auburn, near the Luther Road-Highway 49 intersection. An analysis that by Economic Research Associates as part of the Wal-Mart site’s environmental review in 2009 estimated a discount store would bring in revenue totaling $637,554 annually. That’s compared to a Costco or club store’s $898,000 or a home improvement center’s $465,000. Outside city limits, tax revenues go into the county’s general fund. Additionpment Agency, the Economic Research Associates study said. Supervisor Jim Holmes, whose district includes the Wal-Mart site, said Thursday that the new store – which can be up to 155,000 square feet under county approvals granted last fall – would be capturing some of that sales tax in new revenue from people who would otherwise drive to Roseville to shop there. That new market could include customers from Cool, Colfax, Nevada County and perhaps even the Newcastle area, he said. Some of that business will be from people who traditionally go to other stores in the area, Holmes said. But Holmes, a lifelong Auburn-area resident, said that concerns about urban decay from a Wal-Mart presence are premature – given the area’s history of absorbing other larger retailers. “Every time a Target or Home Depot comes in, we hear that they’re going to close businesses,” Holmes said. “But I haven’t seen it. It’s about adapting to circumstances. It’s what businesses do.” Charles Fishman, author of “The Wal-Mart Effect,” noted in his book that surveys have shown overall employment drops by about 50 jobs in communities after a Wal-Mart has been established five years as businesses are crowded out by the world’s largest retailer’s low prices. But Amelia Neufeld, Wal-Mart senior manager for public affairs, said Thursday that the Arkansas-based retail corporation has found the opposite is true in other surveys. “Across the country – in rural, suburban and urban markets – our stores co-exist with small, medium and large businesses,” Neufeld said. “There have been countless studies done that show Wal-Mart stores are a magnet for growth and development.” Wal-Mart expects to have the same impact in Auburn, Neufeld said. Auburn City Councilwoman Bridget Powers, who also serves as vice-chair of the Placer County Economic Development Board, said she personally would have rather seen a Costco but is now receiving e-mails from Wal-Mart indicating the store would be working with the community by buying local produce and products. Wal-Mart’s move into the market is so new, Powers said she wants to do some comparisons with other communities to see if the store chain is true to its word. And with Wal-Mart planning a store in North Auburn, Powers said she feels the city of Auburn should renew its efforts to attract a Costco – and its higher tax revenues. Gerry Haas, Placer County project planner during the lengthy Wal-Mart development approval process, said that as well as tax revenues, the store will also be paying for road improvements on Bell Road and turn-signal improvements at Highway 49 and Dry Creek Road. That’s in addition to sound-wall and landscaping construction between the property and subdivisions off Canal Street to the rear of the store. Wal-Mart has yet to contact the county on what it’s plans are for the project, Haas said. Wal-Mart is still being opposed by community members who have joined together as the Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community (APACE). The group recently filed an appeal on a judge’s decision that would have thrown the case out of court because of a late filing. Victoria Connolly, an APACE member, said that Wal-Mart watchers – pro and con – need to be reminded that nothing can be done until the court case questioning the county’s environmental approvals is settled. That could take years, she said. Connolly said her group is questioning why Wal-Mart already has a website up and is asking for supporters. The AuburnWalmart.com site went online Monday. “It’s puzzling to us why they are drumming up support,” Connolly said. “It’s now in the court of law not in the court of public opinion.”