No spring start for Auburn Walmart construction

AUBURN CA – A construction start on a North Auburn Walmart store is still several months out as the retail corporation works to complete the approval process with both Placer County staff and the federal government.

Wal-Mart Stores had told county staff last year that it was planning for a spring construction start but, with improvement plans to finalize and an important OK from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission still not in hand, estimates now put groundbreaking at least six months out.

Design approval on the 155,000-square-foot store on 18.6 acres north of Luther Road near Highway 49 was given by Placer County Planning Department staff last December.

Since then, the county has been waiting for word from Wal-Mart about its plans to complete improvement plans. That work includes a new bridge to be constructed over Pacific Gas & Electric’s Wise Canal, which runs through the site.

Associate Planner Gerry Haas said Friday that FERC approvals are necessary because the Wise Canal water flow is part of the PG&E system’s hydroelectric power generation network.

Haas said a Wal-Mart engineer contacted his office Thursday, signaling a move forward.

The county would likely take about five to six months to review improvement plans once they are received from Wal-Mart, Haas said. It would be at least a month after the approval before construction could start, he said.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amelia McLear said that the corporation appreciates the support it is seeing from the county and the community as it works to bring a Walmart store to Auburn “that we know our customers want and need.”

“Now that we’ve received county design-review approval, we’ll be working to move forward with the next step in the near future so we can bring up to 300 new jobs and increase economic stimulation to area residents and businesses,” McLear said.

McLear said the store corporation has heard from hundreds of Auburn-area customers looking forward to the convenience of a local Walmart and “saving gas, time and money on products their families need.”

Wal-Mart has been busy with other construction projects in Placer County, including new, smaller stores in Granite Bay and Lincoln.

Construction crews started refurbishing the former Rainbow Market on Lincoln’s G Street this past month. The store will create 75 new jobs and be opened under the Walmart Neighborhood Market banner.

Lincoln Mayor Spencer Short said he was excited about the plans for a fall opening of the store.

“It shows the economy is starting to turn and we have businesses interested in locating in Lincoln,” Short said.

In Auburn, the Walmart proposal had been fought both at the local political level and, since it was approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors in September 2010, in the courts. That effort by the Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community has been stalled on technical grounds but Victoria Connolly, a member of the grassroots group, said construction will not deter opposition to locating the Walmart at the site.

Gold Country News Service reporter Stephanie Dumm contributed to this report.

Source: Auburn Journal