Businesses around Atascadero could lose more than $20 million in sales in the first year if a proposed Walmart and adjacent shopping center are approved by the city, according to a state-mandated environmental review of the projects released Wednesday.
But fewer shopping dollars would leave Atascadero, generating more tax revenue for the financially strapped city.
Walmart and The Annex are the long discussed and controversial retail and housing developments proposed for vacant lots at El Camino Real and Del Rio Road on the north side of town.
The study says the developments would take a collective $23.6 million from existing retail stores in the market area of Atascadero, Templeton, Santa Margarita and Creston. That sum is projected for 2013, when the project would be built if it gains approval.
That means general merchandise retailers in the area will see a roughly 12 percent drop in sales after the developments arrive, according to the report. Food stores would have an estimated 2 percent drop in the same period. The report says sales could equal today’s sales in about five years after more people are drawn to the area because of the new developments. It also predicts that by 2018 the project is projected to capture $21.7 million in sales that would have otherwise gone to regional businesses.
The developments would also draw more shoppers to town, the report says, so fewer shopping dollars would leave Atascadero. The report estimates the roughly $40 million that might be spent out of town in 2013 could remain if the projects are approved. About one- third of that total is attributed to the Walmart store alone, according to the report.
Loss of rural character, traffic, construction noise and potential solutions were discussed in the 868-page, $429,000 environmental review paid for by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The document, available for public review in its first draft, was conducted through Michael Brandman Associates of Orange County. Wal-Mart is going forward with a scaled-back plan compared to its first proposals for the site in 2007. The development now is slated to have 123,000 square feet of retail and grocery items plus about 6,500 square feet of outdoor garden services.
It would also prepare two commercial lots on about 10,000 square feet. There’s also space allotted for a 44-unit multifamily residential development.
In addition, The Annex component would have more than 120,000 square feet of commercial space with the option for a single-family residential development.
The prospect of Walmart coming to town has brought controversy to the community. Critics — namely resident Tom Comar and his Save Atascadero group —voiced worries about hurting local business and losing the town’s character by adding more big-box chains. Supporters applaud affordable goods, increased tax revenue and more jobs.
HOW AND WHERE TO COMMENT
The public has until March 18 to review the report and submit feedback to the city. The City Council is then set to discuss the report in May or June. Printed copies of the report are available at City Hall, 6907 El Camino Real, and the Atascadero-Martin Polin Library, 6850 Morro Road. It can also be downloaded at the city’s website, www.atascadero.org (scroll down to the Hot Topics section). Comments can be mailed to City Hall or e-mailed to Community Development Director Warren Frace at firstname.lastname@example.org.