Wal-Mart bait and switch
June 19, 2012
A day of reckoning is coming in Atascadero on the Wal-Mart/Annex project at the June 26 City Council meeting.
Multi-million dollar risks to the city’s businesses and residents are on the table. This will be your last chance to ensure the project is done the right way, and that your interests are served.
But, that way is not being planned and the consequences are very serious, as city staff recommendations and final EIR documents show. You’re about to get the shaft.
City staff is proposing, and the planning commission just approved, bailing the Wal-Mart/Annex project out of fully funding and building the required Del Rio Road / US 101 interchange improvements before opening for business, reimbursing them later for costs above their “fair share.”
Although widening that bridge could cost $11 million, the plan is to cap Wal-Mart’s expense at $1.3 million, and the Annex’s at $1.1 million, placing a potential $8.6 million burden on the rest of us. The much-touted cheap ($4.5 million) roundabouts have no backing from Cal-Trans, contrary to the city’s assertions.
The plan is based on applying Wal-Mart-only requirements to the Wal-Mart/Annex project, or trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. The Wal-Mart-Only requirements were designed in case the Annex plan fell apart, after a feud between the two owners over paying for the DR/101 interchange improvements. But, a bank bought the Annex property and, now, city staff is adamantly advocating against approving the Wal-Mart-Only alternative.
But, in a bait and switch con job, Wal-Mart-Only requirements (square peg) are shoved by the plan into the Wal-Mart/Annex project (round hole). The plan shifts the burden of DR/101 funding and reconstruction from the applicants to the city and its businesses, homeowners and residents. Here are some of its components.
· Prohibit any Annex business opening until after the DR/101 improvements are completed (while allowing Wal-Mart to open before then),
· Cap Wal-Mart’s expense for cost overruns at less than $200,000,
· Increase citywide traffic impact fees on businesses and homeowners,
· Borrow money from the restricted user-funded sewer fund,
· Delay other road projects by pushing the DR/101 interchange to top priority,
· Shutdown the DR/101 interchange for rebuilding for a year after Wal-Mart opens, driving excessive overflow traffic elsewhere – a nightmare.
Your last chance to affect the plan is the June 26 Atascadero City Council hearing. It’s speak up or shut up time.