Costco Wholesale is moving ahead with its proposed store in northwest Meridian, but opponents are keeping up their fight.
Costco has submitted new conceptual drawings for the outside of the proposed store at the corner of Chinden Boulevard and North Ten Mile Road . The change comes after company representatives were asked at an April 3 City Council meeting to come up with a design that is more aesthetically pleasing.
The new design replaces the brown exterior typical of Costco stores with a cool gray stucco finish and a more sculpted look.
The City Council has already approved the store, pending its acceptance of a new design. A hearing by the City Council to consider the design change is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 24 at Meridian City Hall, 33 E. Broadway Ave.
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Meanwhile, three opponents of Costco Wholesale’s plan to build have gone to court.
Rickey Burke, Robert Neufeld and David Reyes sued in state district court in Boise, asking a judge to overturn the council’s approval. Burke, Neufeld and Reyes, who live in neighborhoods near the planned development, say the store would bring “substantial harm to their real property interests.”
They are seeking copies of any text messages sent or received by council members during the April 3 meeting and for records of any Internet browsing by council members then. They also asked for copies of any communications between the city council and Costco and its agents between Nov. 1, 2017, and April 3, 2018.
The city provided transcripts from the meeting but did not respond to the other requests. The plaintiffs have asked District Judge Nancy Baskin to order the city to provide the other documents or affirmations that no such records exist.
A hearing to consider the request has not been scheduled. After that issue has been settled, the parties will be given additional time to submit briefs arguing whether the council approval should be overturned.
The following story was published April 4, 2018, under the headline, “Foes and friends spoke for 6 hours. Finally, Meridian’s City Council ruled on Costco.”
The Meridian City Council early Wednesday approved a series of requests that will let Costco Wholesale build a store at the corner of Chinden Boulevard and North Ten Mile Road.
After a six-hour hearing that lasted until 1 a.m., the council approved a change to the city’s comprehensive plan to give the 33-acre site a commercial designation. It previously was designated for residential and mixed use.
The council also approved a variance to let cars to enter and leave the property from two driveways on Chinden. The variance was needed because of a regulation that prohibits new approaches directly accessing a state highway. The Idaho Transportation Department signed off on the change.
The council voted 5-1 to approve the requests, which included annexation and zoning changes and a preliminary plat for the Costco building and 13 other commercial building lots on the property. Councilman Joe Borton voted no.
The store is scheduled to open in 2020.
David Reyes, a neighbor opposed to the Costco plan, said opponents plan to fight in court. “We’re not done,” Reyes said.
Brian Whelan, a site selection executive from Costco who attended the meeting, declined to comment afterward, saying he was not authorized to speak to the press.
A standing-room crowd of more than 160 people attended the hearing, which began at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday. Most stuck around until after 11, and more than half were still there when the council voted.
Opponents reiterated objections they have raised since the proposed location was announced last August. They said the store does not belong in a residential neighborhood. They complained about added traffic congestion, noise and light pollution. They worried about the safety of children who live nearby and walk and bike to parks in the area.
Bob Rock, who lives on West Lost Rapids Drive just west of the development, said the 165,000-square-foot warehouse store is not appropriate for the neighborhood.
“We’re not opposed to commercial development,” Rock said. “But we’re opposed to having a warehouse the size of Costco put there.”
Several homeowners said they would have never purchased homes in the SpurWing and Bainbridge developments if they had known that Costco planned to locate nearby. A few said they worried that home values would suffer.
One neighbor said Costco would not be bring family-wage jobs to Meridian. Whelan disputed that. He said Costco employees start at a minimum wage of $13 an hour and earn $50,000 annually after five years. He said the company offers an outstanding benefits package for both full-time and part-time workers.
Turnover for workers in their first year of employment is less than 7 percent, he said, a low rate in the retail industry.
Costco spent several years looking at possible sites before deciding on the Chinden and Ten Mile parcel, Whelan said. The company had initially eyed a site at Chinden and Linder Road, a mile east, but later rejected it. The chosen location is nearly equally distant from Costco’s Boise and Nampa stores and reaches a wider customer base on the north side of the Treasure Valley, company representatives said earlier.
Whelan said the company is concerned about the safety of the surrounding neighborhood and won’t risk its reputation by being a bad neighbor.
“This decision wasn’t made lightly,” he said.
Mike Wardle, director of planning for the Brighton Corp., which is developing the site along with 115 apartments to be located south of the store and 162 houses immediately west, said a number of Costco stores across the country are located in residential areas.
He said a store built two years ago in Bardstown, Kentucky, is surrounded by a neighborhood. He said others are located in Coeur d’Alene, Columbus, Ohio, and Lehi, Utah. The Lehi store, like the one to be built in Meridian, is on a major highway and next to homes.
Councilman Luke Cavener asked Whelan whether Costco’s plans to begin home deliveries could affect the Meridian store. Whelan said those deliveries would come from a different hub. “There would be none of those deliveries coming out of this building,” he said.
Councilman Treg Bernt asked whether the building’s exterior could be designed to be more aesthetically appealing than the Boise and Nampa stores. Whelan said the company is willing to offer designs used at other locations and come up with a suitable one. The council required the company to obtain its approval for the design.
Mike Dunlap, a Meridian resident who testified in favor of the project, said many changes have come to Meridian as it has grown greatly over the past few years. “You can drive around anywhere and land is being torn up for homes or apartments,” he said.
He said the city needs the jobs and the road improvements Costco will provide.
Portions of Chinden and Ten Mile must be widened from two to four lanes before the store can open. Other upgrades will be required within two years of the store’s opening.
Costco has said it will provide $15 million upfront to pay for the initial road widenings. It could be reimbursed under a program through the Idaho Transportation Department and the Ada County Highway Department.
Several people in the audience worried before the vote that council members had already made up their minds to approve the project and hadn’t heard opponents’ concerns.
Cavener said the council wrestled with making a good decision. He said growth brings challenges, but the project is an appropriate use along a state highway.
“We love Meridian, which is why we’re up here,” Councilwoman Anne Little Roberts said. “We know you love Meridian, too.”