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Walmart/Annex project gets unanimous go-ahead

Posted: Thursday, Jun 28th, 2012

Heather Young/Atascadero News • Atascadero resident David Broadwater, back center, uses props to illustrate his point at the Atascadero City Council meeting on Tuesday.

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council unanimously approved moving forward with the Walmart/Annex project Tuesday six years after Walmart bought the property at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real.

While many of the 60 speakers during public forum spoke in favor or against having a Walmart store in Atascadero, a good number spoke about traffic and fiscal impacts approving the project as presented by staff.

“To be fair to everyone, we need Walmart and the Annex to pay their fair share of the actual costs,” Atascadero resident Ron Rothman said, and his sentiments on the interchange improvements were echoed by many other speakers, including those who said they want a Walmart in Atascadero, but not at the cost to the city.

While the city will front the costs of the interchange, Frace said that the city expects to get a total of $4,887,394 when the project is built out. Walmart’s portion of that is $2,269,425.

The city will receive a $250,000 payment from Walmart when the entitlements are final, which Frace expects to be in late summer of this year. A payment of $600,000 is due at the time of grading, which is expected to happen within the next year. The balance is then due at the time that the building permit is issued. Frace said that could likely happen at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.

The city has $800,000 in traffic impact fees already in the bank that could be utilized for up-front costs. If needed, Frace said that the city could borrow $1.5 million from the wastewater fund, which has more than $10 million in it. The money would be paid back with interest using future traffic impact fees.

Atascadero resident Hardy Neilson, a Del Rio Road resident, said he’s for the project, but that all improvements should be done and operational before any store is opened in the project.

“Come on, people, are we that incompetent we can’t drive around while this stuff is going on?” Atascadero resident Jim Shannon said.

“No more delays, we need jobs, we need sales tax,” Atascadero resident Mike Anderson said.

Atascadero Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Linda Hendy also spoke in favor of the council approving the project because the chamber supports “all businesses in Atascadero. It will bring hundreds of jobs to our community.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re for or against Walmart, it’s a matter of being fiscally responsible,” Atascadero resident Randy Lawrence said. “I would certainly have Walmart fund the [interchange costs]. Please be fiscally responsible.”

Several former Atascadero mayors spoke on the project.

“I believe the [benefits] far outweigh the risk,” former Atascadero mayor Ray Johnson said.

Former mayor Mike Brennler said that the interchange mitigations need to be in place before Walmart opens.

“Council members, we need to move forward with this project,” former Atascadero mayor Bob Wilkins said. “Could this have helped DeCou Lumber? Quite possibly. Let’s not lose our current investment of seven years.”

The council approved all 12 motions as recommended by staff one at a time. After staff and applicant presentations, a few short questions were asked of staff. There were also only a couple of questions after the public comment period was closed. There was no discussion between the council before motions were made.

At buildout, it is expected that the entire project will increase the city’s net revenues by $530,000 per year. Frace added that the number includes every proposed building in the project being complete and operational.

To get started on the interchange improvements, the city submitted the project initiation form to Caltrans on Thursday. Public Works Director Russ Thompson said that it’ll take at least a year to get through the design and environmental reviews processes.

“It’s so nice to finally have an approved project,” Thompson said.

The project was recommended for approval by the Atascadero Planning Commission in a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Len Colamarino dissented, Commissioner Beth Wingett was absent and Commissioner Christian Cooper recused himself because he signed a card in support of Walmart.

The Rottman Group first approached the city in early 2005 after it assembled parcels on three corners of the intersection. Walmart bought the 26 acres it owns from the Rottman Group in mid-2006.

The property owned by the Rottman Group on the northeast corner of the intersection was put up for auction earlier this year and purchased by Montecito Bank & Trust. While the bank is going forward as the applicant on the Annex portion of the development, along with the Rottman Group, which still retains a small lot across El Camino Real from the main Annex development, the bank will not develop the site, but will rather sell the property to developers.

The approved Walmart store will be 129,000 square feet with outlots for future businesses to be built.

The second reading of the project will be on the Tuesday, July 10 city council meeting under the consent calendar. All items on the consent calendar are approved in one motion, although city staff, council members and members or the public have the option to pull items off the consent calendar for discussion.

To view the meeting, go to

What do you think? Send a letter to editor@atascadero or to the city council members (see page A4 for contact information).

For the complete article see the 06-29-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 06-29-2012 paper.

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