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2006-06-14, Atascadero may vote on shops
Atascadero voters could decide the fate of a controversial proposal for a large-scale shopping center on the city’s north end.

Atascadero voters could decide the fate of a controversial proposal for a large-scale shopping center on the city’s north end.

The City Council is expected tonight to discuss whether to place The Rottman Group’s planned retail hub at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The project has already prompted scores of grassroots activists concerned about a possible Wal-Mart there to launch an orchestrated attempt to stop the development.

"There’s a lot of people on both sides who have suggested" putting the proposed project up for a citizen vote, said Councilwoman Becky Pacas, who placed the item on the agenda.

The council won’t vote tonight on placing the project on the ballot. Pacas said, "I wanted to make sure it was on there for discussion."

A ballot initiative would make the North County property dubbed The Annex the second potentially contentious development in the county to come before voters this fall.

The Board of Supervisors voted June 13 to add rancher/ developer Ernie Dalidio’s long-planned 131-acre retail and residential complex off Madonna Road along Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo to the November ballot countywide.

Dalidio’s revised plan now includes 60 units of housing, an organic farm, a farmers market and a butterfly sanctuary in addition to several anchor stores. He circulated a petition this spring in hopes of bringing the project before voters throughout the county.

Voters in San Luis Obispo rejected the idea last year after the City Council had approved it.

In Atascadero, rumors that Wal-Mart was eyeing a location began swirling shortly after Rottman officials announced plans for the retail center. In April, the developer confirmed that the Arkansas-based retailer had expressed interest in the site.

That announcement sparked an outcry from anti-Wal-Mart activists, primarily representing the locally based Oppose Wal-Mart group. They have repeatedly said any potential increase to city sales tax revenue would be negated by Wal-Mart’s reputation for chronically underpaid employees logging long hours, substandard health and retirement benefits and a path of small businesses shuttered by its cost-cutting strategies.

The Annex has not come before the council for a formal vote, and no binding deals with Wal-Mart or other possible tenants have been finalized. So far, Rottman Senior Vice President Maury Froman said, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Smart & Final, Circuit City and Lowe’s Home Improvement have turned down offers to open in the center.

Froman called a ballot measure "premature" and said recent controversy could hamper company efforts to attract a popular tenant.

"From a tenant standpoint, you have a choice to go where it’s controversial or where it’s not controversial," he said. "I’d be going where it’s not controversial."


The Atascadero City Council will discuss a possible ballot measure to decide the fate of The Annex at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real. The council meeting begins at

7 tonight at Atascadero City Hall, 6907 El Camino Real.

Written By - Magus Mooney, New York, NY
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