A majority of Atascadero's City Council members seem to believe that their community will have a better chance to save money and live better--in the words of Wal-Mart's slogan--without a large version of America's largest retailer in town.
At its Oct. 29 meeting, the council voted 4-1 against taking the first steps toward bringing a Wal-Mart Supercenter to the intersection of Del Rio Road and El Camino Real, a proposal that created opposing factions in the town as it simmered for more than two years.
Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Brennler, who voted against Wal-Mart's application to open in a 195,000-square-foot space in Atascadero, said that the project was just too big.
"I am supporting the general plan--which was adopted five years ago--that puts a 150,000-square-foot cap on buildings at the proposed site," he said. "150,000 square feet is very large. It's bigger than SLO's Costco and Atascadero's Home Depot."
Despite voting against the proposed project, Brennler said he supports profitable growth in Atascadero.
"I'm 100 percent in favor of commercial development," he said. "As long as it comes with responsibility, grows incrementally and proportionally within the community, and with intelligence in the planning process. That's what makes other communities successful, and we have every opportunity to do that right here in Atascadero."
Wal-Mart could sidestep the council's decision by bringing the issue to a ballot through a citizens' initiative, but Atascadero Mayor George Luna, who also voted against the plan, said he hopes that Wal-Mart chooses to work with the city rather than take that route.
"If they took the initiative, it would cause further disruption in the community between those who want to preserve Atascadero's rural character and those that want more shopping and sales tax," he said.
Brennler voiced a similar opinion.
"I hope Wal-Mart respects our general plan and works with our community," he said. "We don't have a problem with Wal-Mart. We just don't want a Super Wal-Mart, with 10 acres of paved parking lot. Please give us something responsible in our community."
New Times was unable to reach representatives from Wal-Mart or developer The Rottman Group by deadline. Councilman Tom O'Malley, the lone vote in favor of Wal-Mart's proposal, did not return repeated calls for comment.