On October 30, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that the City Council in Atascadero, California had voted 4-1 to require city staff to stop processing a Wal-Mart proposal for a 195,000 s.f. store on Del Rio Road. Mayor George Luna said at that time that continuing the review process would only prolong the inevitable defeat of the proposal. “I don’t see the reason getting more information on a store I would never vote for,” the Mayor told the media. The city’s General Plan has a limit of 150,000 s.f. for big box stores — but the zoning ordinance has no such limit. We updated this story on December 18, 2007 when local residents filed an initiative petition entitled “Taxpayers’ Initiative Ordinance To Reduce Costly Effects Of High Intensity Urban Development By Preserving Atascadero’s Unique Small Town Character.” According to the group Oppose Wal-Mart, the Measure will ask the voters to amend the Atascadero Zoning Ordinances to approve a maximum limitation (cap) of 150,000 s.f. on the size of any single big box commercial structure and prohibit discount superstores in all zoning districts of the city. With that historiy as a backdrop, it was announced this week that Wal-Mart had returned with plans for a 146,507-s.f. store on Del Rio Road — a cut of about 25% in building size. Wal-Mart opponents may need to rethink the cap size they are working on, which is very high. The grocery sales and support area of this store comes to 34,398 s.f., with a small garden area of 3,696 s.f. The revised plan cuts out the Tire & Lube facility and a drive-through pharmacy window. Two out-parcels that would have been used for restaurants or other stand-alone buildings were also dropped. The project comes with an adjacent “Annex Shopping Center,” proposed by the developer, the Rottman Group, which remains unchanged from the earlier version, and includes eight retail buildings totaling 115,000 s.f. of commercial space on a 15.4 acre site. Originally, Wal-Mart and the Rottman Group submitted their project proposals simultaneously to aide in marketing of potential retail and restaurant tenants, as well as to facilitate the environmental and entitlement review process required by the City. The proposed Wal-Mart application will require a General Plan Amendment, changing 10.3 acres of property from Residential to Commercial. The Annex application will require a General Plan Amendment changing a 0.9 acre area from Residential to Commercial. The next step is the City Council asks the City staff to forward General Plan Amendment proposals to the Council with a background report and request for authorization to process the application. The city council will still have to rezone part of the land, which is a discretionary act they are not required to do.
Atascadero describes itself as have “a blend of natural beauty and rural lifestyle. Its comfortable climate and atmosphere are influenced by the beautiful Pacific Ocean on the West, and also by the Salinas River and open countryside to the East. Local scenery includes oak-studded hills, creeks, and scenic vistas of the Santa Lucia Mountains.” This massive concrete and asphalt project does not fit in with the city’s Economic Development Strategy to “maintain the City’s existing retail base, add more diversity
to the economy, and ensure that Atascadero is a viable, healthy community where business owners, workers, and their families want to live.” The city says it wants “increased employment opportunities, higher wages, a broader tax base for the City, and an improved standard of living for residents.” Wal-Mart brings none of those things. The city’s strategy calls for three fundamental objectives: 1) maintain and enhance the City’s retail base. (Retention) 2) Reduce the City’s retail dependence by diversifying the economy over the long term. (Recruitment) and 3) Enhance the qualities that make Atascadero a unique place to live work and play. (Community Enhancement and Smart Growth). Readers are urged to email Mayor Mike Brennler at [email protected] with this message: “Mr. Mayor, I urge you not to rezone land for any big box retailer. The “reduced” Wal-Mart project is still two and a half times the size of a football field. This proposal does not fit into the Vision or Mission statements of the Atascadero Economic Development Plan. It will not bring increased employment or higher wage jobs. It’s just another retailer selling what existing retailers already sell. This project will cut into your existing retail base, and add only to your crime rate and traffic congestion. Residential land and big box commercial do not mix. They are incompatible. I urge you to reject the rezoning on the grounds that it is inharmonious with the General Plan and Economic Development Plan of Atascadero.”