Three years have passed since Meridian residents first heard rumblings that a new WinCo might be built in their city. And three years later, it’s still facing opposition.
Last week, four neighbors of Linder Village — a project that would include the WinCo, plus office and restaurant space at the intersection of Linder Road and Chinden Boulevard — submitted a legal challenge to the city. They argued that the City Council did not follow proper procedure when it approved the project in January. They are asking the court to force the city to redo the public hearing and approval process.
Sally Reynolds, one of the four, said she hopes that the challenge will lead the city to shift the balance of power away from developers and give more voice to residents during public hearings.
Reynolds understands that the WinCo is going in, but she thinks that it could be better if the council had insisted on provisions neighbors sought to alleviate traffic and improve safety.
“We want to see this go in, but we want to see the process be better for every single public hearing,” she said in a phone interview.
WinCo has faced several setbacks to opening a Meridian location. In 2016, Meridian was first told it would get a new WinCo near Interstate 84’s Eagle Road interchange in South Meridian. That developer never followed through.
Then in 2017, the developer of Linder Village said the project would include a WinCo. Af first, the City Council denied the project. In January 2019, the council changed directions and approved it after a lengthy public hearing.
That was a victory for the developer, Boise-based DMG Real Estate Partners, founded by David McKinney. And then it wasn’t.
In March, nearby residents asked the council to reconsider its approval. The council declined to hold another hearing on the project. They then decided to file the petition for legal review, which if granted, would force a do-over of the approval process.
“What I’d like to see changed is that the applicant and public be given the opportunity to answer any questions that the council has,” Reynolds said. She felt that when members of the public cited statistics or information, the council relied on the developer, or project applicant, to verify the information, rather than confirming with the resident who had presented.
Reynolds would also like council to make more complete motions that encompass all that was discussed during the hearing process. For example, Reynolds said,the council might agree during their discussions that a project should include crosswalks. But a developer is not legally obligated to provide the crosswalks unless the council passes a specific motion to require them.
Reynolds would like to see the project include more crosswalks to increase safety, and for deliveries to WinCo to be limited to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The developer, Dave McKinney, said he and WinCo have mitigated many of those concerns.
He said his lawyers have advised his company to intervene in the case, which would allow them to provide their own evidence and arguments backing the council’s approval.
“We are confident that the city and ACHD did what they were supposed to do,” he said.
Going forward with the case, the city must now provide records of the public hearing to the court. A judge will make a decision about whether the council followed proper procedures.
“We certainly believe we did follow the legal process,” Meridian City Attorney Bill Nary said in a phone interview. “We will be responding to the case.”
Nary said that the Linder Village development is allowed to move forward while the court considers the case. He estimates that the court could take six months to make a decision about the residents’ petition.
McKinney is still moving forward on the project and sticking to his time line. He aims to start construction next February or March. WinCo hopes to open by Thanksgiving 2020.
“We’re full steam ahead,” he said.
Other residents have tried to reverse Meridian City Council decisions via the courts. Just a month ago, opponents of a soon-to-be-built Costco at the southwest corner of Chinden Boulevard and Ten Mile Road had their own legal challenge shut down in court.
Andrea Carroll, the lawyer who represented the Costco opponents, is also representing the neighbors of the future WinCo. They include David McKinney (separate from the developer), Sally Reynolds, David Eastman and Tony Brownlee, who live south of the future development.
The Meridian Press first reported that the judicial petition had been filed.