After waiting a year and a half to have their day in court, the Friends of Placer County (CA) Communities, Inc. has finally been given the opportunity to present its case against Wal-Mart and the County of Placer. Their first court appearance was July 23rd. The Friends group, which is a non-profit organization, has had its hands full fighting not only Wal-Mart, but Home Depot and Target, battling all 3 giant retailers at once. In the Wal-Mart case, the Friends filed a Writ of Mandate in January of 1997 charging that the County did not adopt feasible mitigation measures when reviewing the Wal-Mart plan, did not mitigate the negative economic impacts that could lead to blighting of other property in town, failed to analyse in depth the health and safety cumulative impacts of the project, and violated citizen’s rights to meaningful public participation. The Friends say that the County repeatedly refused to consider economic impacts of the Wal-Mart as part of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but has since reversed its position and is now requiring an economic impact statement as part of a similar protest over a Home Depot proposal. “The Friends concern was and still is that the cumulative impact of…megastores in North Auburn could wipe out much of the downtown Auburn and immediate surrounding area business,” the group said in a press release. The County is currently finishing design work on an impact statement that will govern the Home Depot store. All 3 superstores are located in an already congested traffic area known locally as Blood Alley, or Highway 49. In the Home Depot case, the County of Placer is actually the landlord, leasing the land to Home Depot. Home Depot, by the way, wants to rename the main access road to its site from its current name Willow Creek Road, to the new name: Home Depot Way. Friends of Placer County is hoping that their court battles will prevent companies like Home Depot, Target and Wal-Mart from having their “way”. According to Friends spokesman Dale Smith, the use of public land for a Home Depot is “an unprecedented misuse of public property” and “wrong for the County to be in the landlord of a business that would destroy many existing businesses.”
To make a contribution towards the legal bills of the Friends, make out a check to the Friends of Placer County Communities, Inc, and mail it to Box 55, Auburn, CA 95604. For further information, contact Dale Smith at 530-885-8487.