Wal-Mart moving ahead with Placer County on North Auburn store design

Grassroots group goes to Appeals Court to reverse denial of filing to stop project
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Wal-Mart’s plans for a store on property it bought last December in North Auburn are moving forward, with preliminary design work nearing completion. Meanwhile, backers of a court action attempting to block the project have filed an appeal in an effort to resume a stalled lawsuit. Design plans haven’t been publicly released by either the county or the Arkansas-based retailing giant. But Planning Department Associate Planner Gerry Haas said that Wal-Mart is staying with the 155,000 square-foot building proposal approved in September 2010 by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. Wal-Mart is attempting to start excavation and construction work as early as this coming spring, he said. While the square footage of the store, located near Luther Road and Highway 49, will remain the same, the footprint of the building has been adjusted in an attempt to save one or more of the large oak trees on the property, Haas said. Other adjustments include plans for a pedestrian-bicycle path through the 18-acre site to connect Highway 49 with neighborhoods bordering the project site on Canal Street, he said. The initial plan also called for a vehicle fueling station but that is no longer in the plan and a retention-detention pond for storm-water runoff has been added at that location, Haas said. Haas said the Wal-Mart project design benefited from public hearings and a high level of engagement by the public in the approval process. Several speakers at public hearings had advocated retaining as many oaks as possible, including one iconic tree more than 30 inches in diameter. Haas said Wal-Mart will attempt to preserve that tree, plus two or three others. “They’re going to make every attempt but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to survive,” Haas said. Haas added that any legal issues surrounding the project wouldn’t necessarily slow the approval process or even construction. With previous approvals granted by the Board of Supervisors, all future OKs for design, excavation and construction will be made at the staff level, he said. The Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community, meanwhile, continues to attempt to reverse a ruling in February by Placer Superior Court Judge Charles Wachob that the group was too late in filing its suit against Bohemia Properties. Bohemia is the Wal-Mart site’s former owner. Victoria Connolly, a member of the Auburn-based grassroots group, said it filed its appellate brief with the Third District Court of Appeal in late August and Bohemia filed its response Oct. 21. The group’s filing was five minutes late, she said. “Because the case at hand is pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, we are hopeful that the court will use existing law, arguments under Section 473 about excusable attorney error and the public interest to find in our favor,” Connolly said.