Why should the city of Atascadero pick up half the tab for road improvements around the proposed Walmart and Annex projects because the developers can’t reach an agreement on how to split the cost?
The answer is, it shouldn’t.
For seven years, Wal-Mart Inc. and the Rottman Group (developer of The Annex) have been working to build two projects across from each other at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real.
As part of the permitting studies, it was determined the area would need some $4.5 million in road upgrades to accommodate the new traffic that would be generated by these substantial developments.
Appropriately so, the initial environmental impact report assigned responsibility for that cost to “the project” or “the applicant.”
At some point, however, a dispute arose about whether “the project” referred to Wal-Mart alone or Wal-Mart and Rottman together.
Now the two are squabbling and pointing fingers and have been unable to come up with some kind of agreement that pays the full $4.5 million tab.
In order to move things along, the city’s latest plan has it stepping in to fund the difference, which it would then recoup from other unknown future developments.
OK, what? No.
Obviously, the deal from the beginning here was that this money comes from the currently proposed new impacts, whether they are considered one project or two.
Now, it’s like Wal-Mart and Rottman invited the city to dinner, ran up a big tab and are trying to walk out of the restaurant, leaving their guest to foot a hefty chunk of the bill.
Atascadero then gets the pleasure of running around for years after looking for other people who can help pay for the meal.
Atascadero never was and shouldn’t be the host at this party. The taxpayers are the ones that need to be wined and dined, not the other way around.
I don’t know what happened between Wal-Mart and Rottman, whether there was a miscommunication with the city or whether one is now just trying to weasel out of their fair share.
But it sounds like from the size of their projects that consultants see them nearly equally responsible, as the new plan assigns Wal-Mart 29 percent of the cost and The Annex 24 percent.
That leaves 47 percent — or $2.1 million — for the city, which is now acting like some needy, insecure teenager who was just happy to be invited to dinner at all.
Grow up, Atascadero, and get a backbone.
You have no guarantee of future development or what others might be willing to pay.
The deal on whether these costs would be funded publicly or privately was clear from the get-go.
Both Wal-Mart and the Rottman Group have deeper pockets than you. They can afford it.
They’re the ones who want to build. They’re the ones who want to increase the demands on city infrastructure. They’re the ones who get to pay, however they figure it out.
If they can’t, tough luck.
Either way, now’s the time for you to stand up and walk away from the table.
What do you think about this deal? Share your thoughts here.
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