Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Suisun Continues Plan For Wal-Mart Supercenter

Suisun Continues Plan For Wal-Mart Supercenter
By Danny Bernardini/Staff Writer

A state agency and county commission have sent letters to the Suisun City government stressing the risks of building a Wal-Mart supercenter near Travis Air Force Base.
City officials, however, continue to move ahead with plans.

Caltrans' Division of Aeronautics has joined the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission in writing to the city and warning them that environmental documents associated with the project do not adhere to the Travis Air Force Base Land Use Plan.

Those environmental documents can be viewed by the public at www.suisun.com/walmart and a joint city council and planning commission meeting on the subject will take place Jan. 22 to consider overruling the county land use commission's recommendation not to allow the project. Although the staff report has not been finalized, it likely will recommend overruling the recommendation.

The proposal for the 20.8-acre Wal-Mart site near Highway 12 and Walters Road would include 230,000 square feet of commercial space including a 215,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter building, plus a fuel station with mini-mart, an 8,000-square-foot sit-down restaurant or commercial-use site and parking.

Caltrans' letter specifically mention's the county land-use commission's finding, calling into question the numbers regarding the population inside the store and parking lot listed in the environmental documents. The land use panel found problems with the math used to determine that there would not be more than 75 people per acre averaged over the entire site and an average of 300 people per single acre within the Wal-Mart building, the population limit as dictated by the Travis plan.

"Their (Wal-Mart Supercenter) focus is usually on high-volume sales; therefore, attracting large crowds," the letter reads. "We strongly recommend that additional time be allocated to revisit the methodology used for density calculations and to note that the "Parking Ordinance" methodology recommended in (the ALUC report) was a sample calculation."

Both groups fear falling debris from planes or a plane crashing into the building would cause greater casualties than assumed in the environmental documents.

The Caltrans letter was written by Joanne McDermott, who no longer works with the division, but Terry Barrie, chief of the Office of Aviation Planning said his office never got a response on the letter.

"Other than from the ALUC, no," Barrie said. "Sometimes we get a response back, sometimes we don't. This time we didn't."

Barrie said he was unaware of the upcoming public hearing, but did note the time and date of the meeting.

Scott Corey, public information officer for Suisun City, said the planning department did receive the letter, but he was unaware whether it will be included in the staff report for the Jan. 22 meeting.

"It should be part of the consideration," Corey said. "It's not part of the EIR, but it should be part of the staff packet. I don't know for sure."

Corey said the staff report likely would be out Wednesday or Thursday and would be a rather large document.

"This thing is a couple hundred pages. It's a big project," he said.

A message left by the recipient of the CalTrans letter, Suisun City Community Development Department Director Heather McCollister, said that plans to recommend overriding the ALUC's finding were still in place.

The Jan. 22 public hearing will begin at 5 p.m. in the Suisun City Council Chambers, 701 Civic Center Blvd., Suisun City.

Danny Bernardini can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

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