Opponents still not convinced Costco belongs in their Meridian neighborhood

Meridian resident Gail Bacon loves shopping at Costco Wholesale. But this month, after shopping at the Nampa Costco with her husband, Bacon wrote a letter to the city opposing the proposed 665,000-square-foot store and gas station at Chinden Boulevard and Ten Mile Road, across Ten Mile from her home in the SpurWing Estates subdivision.

“Observing the gas station with lines of cars waiting in many bays, a parking lot filled with cars circling for a space, a tire center, a huge main facility, trucks — I simply could not comprehend why this type of industrial complex would even be given the tiniest consideration for placement in a residential neighborhood,” she wrote.

Costco originally hoped to open the store before the end of this year, but it now looks like late 2019 is the earliest it could be ready. Meridian’s Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on it Thursday, March 1. But even nearby Costco members don’t want it there.

Opponents dominated a neighborhood meeting last summer where developers discussed their plans. The 150 attendees were asked how many had Costco memberships, which cost $60 a year. Most raised their hands.

It would be within walking distance of Bacon’s house. She and other neighbors aren’t convinced that proposals to widen adjacent roads and install traffic signals would make the added traffic tolerable. They think the store’s presence would bring gridlock and noise to the neighborhood.

“Building the four-lane road is just going to bring more traffic to the area,” said Kathi Yudin, a Costco member, during a recent interview. “The more lanes you put in, the more traffic you’re going to have.”

The site is now vacant farmland on Chinden and Ten Mile’s corner. Boise’s Brighton Corp. is developing it, along with GFI Investments, owned by a Utah family. The site would include not only Costco, but 60,000 square feet of retail stores in two strips bordering the streets and facing Costco, 115 apartments behind Costco and 162 houses immediately west of Costco along Chinden.

The proposed site is 12 miles from Costco’s Nampa store at 16700 N. Marketplace Blvd. and nearly 14 miles from the Boise store at 2051 S. Cole Road. Those stores are just off Interstate 84. Opponents of the proposed store say it, too, should be along I-84, five miles south of Chinden.

“Traffic already spills over into the neighborhoods as people look for alternate routes to bypass congestion,” said John Criswell, a neighbor.

But Costco representatives say placing the store near the freeway would move it too close to the existing stores. Locating it farther north would allow the store to draw customers from north Meridian and Eagle.

The company also rejected placing the store two miles to the west at Chinden and Idaho 16, which heads north to Emmett. The highway ends at Chinden, preventing a direct route from the freeway. It also decided against locating the store at Linder Village, a mile east, where a new WinCo grocery store is planned.

Kittelson & Associates, a Portland firm with an office in Boise, conducted a traffic study last fall for Costco and recommended widening portions of both Chinden and Ten Mile. The study estimated that the store would add 7,255 vehicle trips per day when Costco opens and another 4,380 when the additional stores, apartments and houses are finished.

The study proposed:

▪  Widening Chinden from two lanes to four along a 1.5-mile stretch between Tree Farm Way, half a mile west of Ten Mile, and Linder Roads.

▪  Widening Ten Mile from two to four lanes from Chinden south to McMillan Road, a one-mile stretch. Ten Mile does not extend north of Chinden.

▪  Adding traffic signals at Chinden and Black Cat Road, a mile west of the proposed store, and at Ten Mile and Lost Rapids Drive, at the southeast edge of the development.

▪  Widening Chinden to four lanes from Tree Farm west to Idaho 16 within two years of the store opening.

“The results of this study indicate that the proposed Chinden-Ten Mile mixed-use development can be constructed while maintaining acceptable traffic operations and safety, assuming the recommended mitigation measures are in place,” the report said.

Costco would share costs with the Idaho Transportation Department for widening Chinden to four lanes from Tree Farm Way east to Linder, and with the Ada County Highway District for widening Ten Mile to five lanes from Lost Rapids Drive south to Milano Drive.

Costco would pay to widen Ten Mile to five lanes for 1,500 feet from Chinden Boulevard to Lost Rapids Drive, install a two-way left-turn lane on Chinden at the west entrance to the store, and install a second westbound left-turn lane from Ten Mile onto Chinden.

Not all the opposition is about Costco. Neighbor J.D. Fuller said he isn’t concerned about the siting of the store but is troubled by the apartment complex. He worries that crime could increase.

“I’d much prefer a park with lots of trees than a Costco, but, to be honest, it’s not that big of a deal,” Fuller said. “Lots of neighbors would prefer not to have it, but I think they’re missing the bigger threat, which is high-density residential.”

The March 1 public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at City Hall, 33 E. Broadway Ave. The Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a preliminary plat and a request to allow two access points from Chinden. It also will consider changes to zoning for the project.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell