What’s up with Costco Coming to Town?

Many people around town are curious about when Costco might finally receive approval to build so it can open a store in Ukiah. Regardless of whether you’re a supporter or detractor, it looks like Costco has overcome a few of the major hurdles delaying its arrival.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Realty World Selzer Realty is the co-listing agent for the property Costco will build on. That doesn’t change what I’m about to write, but it’s always important to be transparent.

Currently, the City of Ukiah is in litigation over the environmental impact report for the Costco development. The City was successful during its original trial, but the plaintiffs appealed. The plaintiffs used to be a couple individuals who were union members and worked at FoodMaxx. They have since withdrawn from the suit, but the lawyer persists, representing a client he refuses to identify.

Anyway, the environmental impact report appeal should be heard in February. Presumably, the City will prevail again, ending litigation regarding the development. While that creates a fairly clear path for Costco to come to town, it is not the last hurdle. The City must first complete infrastructure improvements to mitigate traffic issues, primarily at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Talmage Road. The environmental impact report for the intersection has been certified, so it is beyond the reach of litigation to slow or stop development. Most of the design and engineering is complete, but a small amount remains to be negotiated with the State of California—that is, with CalTrans.

The on and off ramps need significant upgrades to handle the inevitable increase in traffic generated by Costco (and the complete build out of the Airport Business Park). It is conceivable that, given current litigation and infrastructure improvement timelines that those in favor of shopping at Costco will have an opportunity to do so for the 2016 holiday season. If you’re not planning to shop at Costco EVER, you will still have the opportunity to shop with local merchants in downtown Ukiah.

People in favor of Costco say it’ll bring new jobs that pay higher-than-average wages for our area. It will lower the cost of consumer goods and make a greater variety of goods available locally. It will help us keep retail dollars in Ukiah and the associated sales tax, too. It’ll make Ukiah a regional shopping hub, bringing shoppers from other local communities. Those visitors will purchase goods and services from others in Ukiah like restaurants or something from a local specialty store, bolstering our local economy. The additional tax revenue will strengthen government services like police and fire protection as well as road maintenance. The increased commercial activity at the Airport Boulevard Business Park will attract other commercial endeavors to the area and we’ll see a flourishing microcosm of commercial activity. People who currently drive to Santa Rosa will save the gas, thus reducing our carbon footprint.

People against Costco say it’s just another big box store that will drive out local businesses, cause traffic congestion, move retail profits out of town, create an ocean of asphalt that contributes to global warming, and add street lights that cause light pollution which will block our view of stars in the night sky. It will strain local resources (e.g., water, sewer, road maintenance) and hurt the communities from which shoppers travel to come to Costco. You can’t buy one 12-ounce can of baked beans; you have to buy a gallon, so the money you supposedly save by buying in bulk actually encourages overbuying and waste.

The real story is probably somewhere in the middle. Either way, it looks like Costco is well on its way.

If you have questions about real estate development or any other real estate or property management issues, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.