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Walmart, opponents claim wins in dispute over North Auburn location

Court appeal ends but soil testing to take place at site near Luther Road
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Both sides are claiming victories in the ongoing dispute over locating a Walmart store on a site north of Luther Road in North Auburn.

The Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment’s (APACE) win has to do with its two-year effort to have more soil testing done on the 18-acre Walmart site, off Highway 49.

The Walmart victory was in a court challenge over a late Placer County Superior Court filing to fight the Placer County Board of Supervisors decision approving a supercenter on the property. The state appeals court decided that Judge Charles Wachob’s local ruling not to accept the group’s late filing was valid.

The upper court decision was made in late February. Walmart senior manager of community affairs Rachel Wall said that the latest ruling was consistent with earlier decisions.

“The courts have continuously rejected APACE’s claims,” Wall said.

Victoria Connolly, an APACE member, said that while the court ruled against the appeal on the late filing, the decision now is back with the county on whether to grant Walmart permits to build.

“We want to know what is in the ground before the county allows the development of this site, which has always been the primary concern of APACE,” Connolly said.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control made the formal request for Walmart to test for toxins, dioxins and furans – two years after APACE initially stated its concerns about the adequacy of previous testing.

Wall said voluntarily allowing the testing to go ahead is an attempt to “bring this matter to a close.”

“We have voluntarily allowed the DTSC to test soil on the property,” Wall said. “The results of the testing and analysis will be made public and we look forward to DTSC’s affirmation that the development will pose no significant risk and is suitable for the new North Auburn store.”

APACE is questioning the thoroughness of any past cleanup. Former site owner Jim Conkey signed a voluntary cleanup agreement six years ago with the state.

“We have spoken to site neighbors and no one recalls any sort of clean-up taking place on this site at that time,” Connolly said.

The site once housed a lumber mill with a wood burner.

“Lumbers sites that once housed teepee burners are know to potentially contain several toxic substances including dioxins and furans,” Connolly said. “They pose a great danger to our community, especially in terms of air and water quality, and the public needs to know if they are present on this site before the land is developed.”