Special Sections : Walmart

Thursday, May 12 2011 07:32 AM

Walmart: City negotiated police funding and stoplights

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Tehachapi Community Development Director David James discusses the Walmart site plan.

Throughout the long Walmart planning process, the city of Tehachapi has focused on the future, building in safeguards in its negotiations with — and in anticipation of — Walmart.

It's a “big picture” concept said Tehachapi Community Development Director David James.

To that end, the city negotiated the salary of an extra police officer, consulted with adjacent property owners to coordinate future development plans with Caltrans, insisted on the installation of a tourist kiosk at Walmart and built a water pumping station in anticipation of further growth in the commercial corridor, James said.

With the exception of building  the water lift station on Tehachapi Blvd. that serves further development as well as Walmart, no city Redevelopment Agency funds have been expended to assist the retail megastore, he noted.

The city knew a major development would arise on the flat, commercial-zoned 22-parcel on Tucker Road, and nudged the design of the Tehachapi Junction to coordinate future traffic flow.

Northern exposure

But they couldn't get Walmart to  turn its building around to face the southern sun.

The design calls for it to face north, where it will cast a cold shadow in the winter and — as everyone who has a north-facing house in Tehachapi knows — it will collect ice and snow at the entry.

The Walmart planners shrugged it off, said Tehachapi Community Development Director David James.

He got the impression they were not impressed by Tehachapi's worst weather.

Walmart told him, in so many words, “We have stores in Alaska and Minnesota and other places where the winter weather is nasty. We know how to shovel snow and how to keep from getting sued.”

So the 165,000-square-foot building, a symbol of global enterprise and, some say, the demise of a small-town atmosphere, will face the rolling hills to the north, the world of the Loop Ranch, a symbol of old Tehachapi. 

Police officer

James said the city concluded that Walmart would have enough of an impact to warrant an additional police officer for the city. 

The new sales taxes could fund an officer but, James said, “We should not have to take those general fund resources and allocate them to the police officer.”

The city asked Walmart to help fund a police officer in perpetuity.

“An officer is something you need year after year,” he said. “We made a good case.”

To accomplish the goal of funding a new officer, the city established a Communjity Facilities District that includes only Walmart.

“It's a single-purpose government agency that encumbers the Walmart property,” James said. 

The Community Facilities District will pay for one extra regular officer.

Median plans

James said the city worked closely with Caltrans on median plans.  (Tucker Road is State Highway 202, built to connect Highway 58 with California Correctional Institution, and thus under the authority of Caltrans).

In working with Caltrans to plan traffic flow on Tucker Road, the city contacted the owner of the property on the west side of Tucker at Red Apple Road. The city asked the owner to provide a rough plan of what he's got in the development pipeline.

He did so, and a proposed unworkable left-turn lane was stricken from the Walmart-related plans, to everyone's satisfaction.

Walmart will have three major ingresses — one on Tucker Road on two on Tehachapi Boulevard.

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