Costco, Conkey, Placer County team on Auburn site

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County supervisors struck a deal with a Roseville developer Tuesday that could woo and win Costco as a tenant on county-owned land in North Auburn. Jim Conkey Real Estate Development was given the OK in a unanimous vote by supervisors to work with the county and the Washington-based warehouse-store corporation on a possible agreement to build at 16 acres south of Willow Creek Road. Conkey had pitched the idea of potentially locating the Costco on the county parcel to staff as the county developed a revised master plan for the Placer County Government Center, formerly known as the DeWitt Center. On Tuesday, he found no opposition to examine the possibility further of luring Costco to the Auburn area after at least two stalled attempts in recent years – one on Nevada Street in the city of Auburn, the other near Luther Road off Highway 49. Jim Durfee, Facility Services Department director, told supervisors that the pact with Conkey would be for one year, with options for two, six-month renewals if both sides agree. Conkey is paying $15,000 for the exclusive right over the next year to negotiate an agreement. He’d pay $5,000 for each six-month renewal. Durfee said supervisors could expect an idea within about a year on whether to proceed further with Costco on a lease and construction agreement for the now-vacant site. The property is south of Home Depot, which opened in 2004 after signing a 50-year lease with the county. “(The year) will give us enough time to ensure due diligence to make sure we’re putting together a deal that makes sense for all of us,” Durfee said. From the county standpoint, facility services staff will be considering the impact of a Costco on site circulation, drainage and several other issues, Durfee said. “We’ll be determining whether the development fits into the long-term plans for use of that site,” Durfee said. “We’re going to determine if it’s appropriate from myriad perspectives.” Ultimately, Costco could be in position to sign a ground lease that would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, he said. Conkey was present for the Board of Supervisors decision, which came with no discussion from either the board or the public. Conkey’s Bohemia Properties is in a legal battle with a local citizens group over a Wal-Mart store on a site near Luther Road that he received county approval to develop. Bohemia sold the property last year to the retailing giant, which plans to start construction in the spring. Conkey declined to comment on the new exclusive contract as he left the Board of Supervisors chambers. During the Wal-Mart approval process, he had said Costco was another interested suitor for the parcel but that the retailer had bowed out because of legal concerns. The two supervisors for the area – District 5’s Jennifer Montgomery and District 3’s Jim Holmes – told the Journal this past week that they’re willing to explore the possibility of a Costco on the county parcel, partly because they’ve seen community support for it. Victoria Connolly, Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community member, said that she isn’t surprised Costco is now eyeing the county property. “I’ve heard rumors for several months,” Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s going to impact traffic, but it’s certainly a more appropriate building site for such a large development than an established neighborhood.”