Atascadero is laying the pipe for the hotly contested Walmart shopping center to finally break ground—and while Walmart’s paying for some infrastructure improvements, funding for the rest is still up in the air.
On May 24, the Atascadero City Council approved an agreement with Walmart that finalizes the many “off-site” infrastructure improvements that are required along El Camino Real as part of the project’s final environmental impact report (EIR). The agreement also outlines a payment schedule for the retail giant to start forking over its share of the costs involved.
Walmart is on the financial hook for a new roundabout at the entrance of the shopping center, on El Camino Real and Del Rio Road; traffic impact fees; new traffic signals at the intersections of San Anselmo Road and El Camino Real and Gran Mercado Boulevard (a new street) and El Camino Real; bicycle lanes along El Camino Real; and the widening of Del Rio Road, among other changes in the area.
“The city isn’t paying a cent for those,” said Alfredo Castillo, an Atascadero city planner.
Atascadero City Councilmember Bob Kelly told New Times he requested that the agreement be pulled from the May 24 meeting’s consent calendar so the public could be given an explanation for where the funds are coming from for the upcoming work.
“[I wanted to] keep the people in the loop on the Walmart Project,” Kelly said. “It’s been an ongoing project that’s very controversial. I think we just needed to let the public know that Walmart has responsibilities other than just building the building.”
Walmart will pay $250,000 to the city as a down payment for its $1.29 million share of a separate but related project: the overhaul of the freeway interchange at Highway 101 and Del Rio Road. Because the interchange project is likely to cost more than double what it was expected to in 2012, which was $4.5 million, Walmart will pay the city an additional overrun fee of $200,000.
Officials say that the interchange project won’t begin until after the Walmart is completed and will be mostly subsidized by “fair share” fees paid by other commercial development that’s expected to occur in the area. The city will not use funds from the half-cent sales tax passed in 2014 to pay for the project.
The next step in the Walmart Project is for the city to approve a “final map” that consolidates the land parcels in the area. That decision is tentatively scheduled for a June 28 City Council meeting. The Walmart is expected to break ground toward the end of the summer.