Wal-Mart submits scaled-down plans

Wal-Mart submitted plans and a $100,000 deposit to the city of Atascadero on Monday for a store that is significantly smaller than originally proposed.

The revised application is for a 117,770-square-foot commercial retail and grocery store. That is about 40,000 square feet smaller than a plan discussed in January and about 29,000 square feet smaller than the developer’s previous application.

The new application includes:

A tire and lube express and outdoor garden area have been eliminated from the plans. However, the store is proposed to include a drive-through pharmacy.

The project also includes 2 acres of additional retail area separate from the store and a newly added 2.8-acre multifamily residential area on the southern end of the site.

“It is a high priority of the City Council to move this project forward,” said Warren Frace, community development director. “In terms of consistency with the general plan, the project is as close as they could get it.”

Tom Comar, a vocal opponent of the project and proponent of Measure D in 2008, which would have imposed a size limit on local stores, said that despite the smaller size, the Wal-Mart is still too large.

“We think that the project can go smaller and still provide the retail and grocery services that the community wants,” said Comar, adding he would prefer more retail and less grocery space. “By cutting the size of the store, the retail tax the city will receive was also cut.”

Plans for the adjacent Annex Shopping Center were also submitted by the Rottman Group. That project includes eight retail buildings totaling 114,574 square feet of commercial space on a 13-acre site. The proposed site plan also includes one drive-through restaurant and a drug store with drive-through pharmacy.

The Wal-Mart store will take up 19 acres of the 26-acre site, Frace said. The residential area was added to help accommodate the remaining space, he said.

A City Council policy mandates that 20 percent of the proposed housing be affordable and staff will recommend consistency with that policy, Frace said.

The mandated environmental impact report, expected to take about a year to complete, will begin within the next few months.

“We know that that end of town needs grocery services,” Frace said. “We are interested in the economic analysis of the project to see what potential sales tax generation will be — at this point we don’t know that smaller building will mean that much less revenue.”