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09.26.07

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Wal-Mart approved for American Canyon and Fairfax residents plead with the city not to fix a bridge felled by the 2005 New Year's flood.

By Patricia Lynn Henley


BIG BOX BATTLES

After three years of legal opposition, a 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter opened Sept. 19 in American Canyon. That's good news for American Canyon's bottom line, says city manager Richard Ramirez. Because the project faced stiff courtroom opposition, he says, "we did not budget for any additional revenue." The city is predicting more than $600,000 in additional sales tax from Wal-Mart and the surrounding shopping center. The city will monitor its actual income and adjust its budget accordingly.

But does a "big box" like Wal-Mart generate new revenues or just cannibalize the sales taxes once collected by local businesses, asks Marty Bennett, co-chair of the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County. Opponents of the American Canyon Wal-Mart unsuccessfully argued that another environmental impact report was needed. Bennett and others would like to expand the planning process to include a community impact report (CIR) for large projects.

CIRs are already being used in San Jose to access impacts on small businesses, employment, housing, smart growth design, community services and public healthcare, as well as potential fiscal costs and benefits to the city. Wal-Mart currently has no super centers in Marin or Sonoma counties, but its plans call for adding more than 40 of these extremely large stores throughout Northern California, Bennett asserts. A CIR "doesn't mandate any mitigations but it does supply good information to decision-makers," he explains. While no Wal-Mart super centers are currently proposed for Petaluma, that community is reviewing plans for Target and Lowe's store locations. A community forum to discuss a potential CIR ordinance will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Petaluma Public Library, 100 Fairgrounds Drive, from 6:30-8:30pm.

DON'T FIX IT

The Creek Road Bridge in Fairfax was damaged in the 2005 New Year's Eve floods and closed to all traffic; early this year it was opened only for bicyclists and pedestrians. Rather than clamoring for repairs to finally get done, at least some nearby residents like the lower traffic loads on their streets and want to keep the bridge off limits to all motor traffic except emergency vehicles. Other residents—especially those along the detour route—don't like the higher level of traffic in their area and want the bridge restored to its former state. Fairfax can't afford the $500,000-plus repair bill without state and federal funding, which mandate that the bridge be open to all vehicles, says Town Manager Linda Kelly. Plus, Kelly says, equal numbers of neighbors support and oppose reopening the bridge. So the town is considering other traffic-calming measures.


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