About the Colony

Developers should pay all the costs

I’m a little concerned about a directive from the Atascadero City Council that gives planning staff permission to sit down with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and another development company to consider “options” for paying for mitigation measures.

It is more than likely that a Walmart store will be the anchor tenant for one of two centers at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real. The Rottman Group’s Annex will be just across the street.

At issue are costs associated with traffic signal improvements to the nearby freeway overcrossing and traffic roundabouts, along with other traffic mitigation measures associated with the development.

My argument is not with Wal-Mart. I’d have the same concerns with any other big-box store or major commercial project going there, or anywhere else in the community.

If the project is going to require that improvements be made to the local infrastructure to reduce its negative impacts on the city, then those costs must be fully paid by the applicant or applicants.

It’s important to remember that any applicant making such a major investment in this city believes there’s money to be made, or it wouldn’t get done. The city, frankly, has nothing to gain with this proposed major development in this otherwise single-family home neighborhood.

There were several references made before the City Council last week that both Wal-Mart and The Annex, the applicants, had indicated months ago that they would pay for road improvements they both knew were going to be required.

Now that there is a price tag attached to those mitigation measures in the neighborhood of $3 million to $4.5 million, perhaps building here isn’t as attractive as it was once thought to be.

The word that bothers me the most in all this recent news is that the staff has been directed to discuss “options” that can be taken to make everyone happy.

Who are we trying to make happy here?

That’s the rub, as some folks believe the council should bend over backward to get this major commercial center while others believe that absolutely no taxpayer funds should be used to help it to fruition.

I am also concerned that the city has been spending a lot of money to make improvements in its central downtown core and that a major commercial center located two miles north at Del Rio Road will suck much of the life out of those downtown plans.

There is even a movement underfoot to get the junior high out of downtown and then make that school property commercially developable.

I would agree with those who want these negotiations to be held in the open.

Not doing so will simply cause us all to “choose up sides” once again on the Walmart issue.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears here every week. He can be reached at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.