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MDEQ board approves permit for Renaissance expansion

By JACK WEATHERLY

The Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board on Thursday unanimously approved a water permit to allow the contested expansion of the Renaissance at Colony Park to proceed.

The plan for 45-acre site along the east side of Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland calls for the clearing and filling of 14 acres of forested wetlands, channelization and excavation of 1,701 feet of Purple Creek and the impact of pipe and excavation on 2,561 feet of ditches.

Because of the increased runoff, the developer plans a water retention basin and a weir to permit continued flow.

The board is the last regulatory hurdle for the project. Roy Furrh, general counsel for MDEQ, said that the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers informed the state agency that with approval of Section 401 Clean Water Act, the corps would approve a Section 404 permit.

Steve Maloney, attorney for the opponents, said after the hourlong meeting at MDEQ headquarters at 515 East Amite St. in Jackson, that he said he felt sure his clients would want to ask for an evidentiary hearing before the board, which they must do within 30 days.

Opponents of the expansion plan filed suit in Madison County Circuit Court challenging the legitimacy of the plans for the third phase of Renaissance, which would include a Costco Wholesale store.

The proposed 150,000-square-foot store is the flash point for the opposition, which contends that the store would increase traffic and devalue nearby residential areas, many of which have upscale homes. There would be five other buildings.

Steve Maloney, attorney for the opponents, said his clients are prepared to take the matter to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which could take up to two years.

The expansion was approved 6-1 initially in 2015 by the Ridgeland Board of Aldermen and then 4-3 earlier this year. The city architectural board also approved the plan.

It qualified under state law as a “cultural retail attraction.”

In qualifying for the now-defunct program, the $69.7 million project will get a sales tax rebate of up to 30 percent of the construction cost, or nearly $30 million. It would have to be completed by July 1, 2020.

John Brunini said that his client, John Mattiace, manager of the Renaissance at Colony Park LLC, is prepared to begin work in the third quarter of 2017.

Maloney said several times that the developers are not ready to move forward – and that the board should hold off on the permit. Costco is the only tenant that has committed, he said.

He contended that there are serious problems with the title to  3 acres “right in the middle” of the proposed project.

Brunini said the title problems are minor.

Maloney urged the board to wait and “let the developers finish their job.”

After the comments from both sides, Florance Bass, branch chief for water quality certification, told the board that the staff recommended approval of the permit.

Board member Dennis Riecke made the motion to approve, which was seconded by Jim Hoffman.

The approval is contingent on purchasing stream and wetlands mitigation credits, which compensate for expected adverse impact on similar nearby ecosystems.

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