Matthew Renda

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March 1, 2013
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Lawsuit continues to hold up Higgins Marketplace

Fred Katz, developer of the Higgins Marketplace, believes he will begin construction on the South County project that calls for 75,000 square feet of commercial space in 2014.

“Something is happening,” Katz said.

In 2009, Katz, owner of Roseville-based FHK Properties, obtained approval to begin construction on a project that includes plans to build an approximately 57,000-square-foot supermarket, originally slated as a Bel Air Market, flanked by smaller retail structures on a 20-acre lot behind the CVS Pharmacy at Combie Road and Highway 49.

However, a lawsuit filed by a group called South County Citizens for Smart Growth filed in September 2009 has halted progress on the project. The lawsuit, which alleged the county and the developer violated the California Environmental Quality Act on multiple fronts during the project approval process, was decided in favor of the county in August 2011.

Citizens for Smart Growth filed an appeal in November 2011, and the case has been stagnant in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals since.

Katz said a clerk at the appellate court recently requested paperwork from his legal team indicating a decision may be forthcoming.

“If we get a favorable decision, it would take six to nine months to get processed, and the project would go under construction 2014,” Katz said.

Margie Joehnck, Citizens for Smart Growth president, said that prospect is unsettling as the project would disturb traffic patterns in the area and prove detrimental to several of the area’s small businesses. Behind-the-scenes conjecture has placed Holiday Market grocery store as one of the financiers of the Citizens for Smart Growth, an assertion that Joehnck denied, saying that other small businesses in the area have, however, joined the group.

Calls to Holiday Market headquarters and attorney Keith Wagner, who represents the Citizens for Smart Growth, went unreturned.

A 2008 study by Bay Area Economics presented a best-case scenario in which Holiday Market sales are significantly reduced. Holiday Market has 13 stores across Northern California, including locations in nearby Auburn, Penn Valley, Cool and Meadow Vista, according to the company’s website.

“There is a distinct possibility that development of the proposed Bel Air store … would create competitive impacts such that the existing Holiday Market store … would not remain economically viable,” the report states.

“I question the wisdom of allowing big chains to take out the mom and pop,” Joehnck said.

Economics have changed since 2009, and it is no longer guaranteed that Bel Air will occupy the space, Katz said.

“We’ll pretty much start over on the economics, but we have drawn the interest of two other supermarket chains in the event Bel Air decides to move forward,” Katz said.

Candidates for the retail anchor do not include a Trader Joe’s as the supermarket chain prefers to inhabit a 25,000-square-foot building and enter an established trade area of 150,000 people, Katz said, suggesting Nevada City, Grass Valley and Auburn do not combine to reach such a population mark.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call 530-477-4239.

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The Union Updated Mar 2, 2013 10:17AM Published Mar 4, 2013 02:58PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.