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Justice denies expedited hearing of Costco case

By JACK WEATHERLY

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Robert P. Chamberlain has denied a motion by the city of Ridgeland to expedite the hearing of an appeal by homeowners challenging the legitimacy of a rezoning of property for the creation of a phase of the Renaissance at Colony Parkway.

Madison County Circuit Court Judge John Emfinger ruled in April in favor of the city. An appeal was promised.

And intent toward that was signaled by the plaintiffs.

But the city filed a motion that, since the case is a “matter of public interest” and stands to benefit Ridgeland in terms of jobs and tax revenue, it must be put at “the head of the docket.”

However, Chamberlain ruled on July 25 that the motion did not show “good cause” for expedition of the case that began in November 2015, when the plaintiffs in Beard et al v. City of Ridgeland contended that an amendment by the city to a commercial zoning ordinance amounted to special treatment to accommodate Costco, an upscale discounter.

The appellants argued in their response to the city’s motion that “Ridgeland’s counsel never contacted appellants’ counsel” about the city’s desire to expedite.

The request for a hastened hearing by the Supreme Court would put the appellants in the position of “having to file their opening brief by Aug. 2 – eight days from now,” they said in a response made on July 24.

The plaintiffs contend that the Costco would create a traffic problem along Highland Colony Parkway, which is lined by office parks and upscale retailers.

The plaintiffs live in upscale neighborhoods in the vicinity.

The amendment, first executed in 2015 in what critics called a surreptitious manner, was redone in April 2016, out of “an abundance of caution,” said city special counsel James Peden.

But Sheldon Alston, attorney for the homeowners, argued that the amendment to an existing commercial zoning ordinance would allow “gas stations, fast-food restaurants” and other things not in keeping with the area, which is dominated by the Renaissance at Colony Park, which was opened in 2007.

Costco Wholesale stores sell gasoline, as do Sam’s Clubs.

The Costco Wholesale store is to be built on a 45-acre site east of the parkway, along with other retailers. The site has gotten approval from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality on the plan to handle water runoff; trees have been removed from the site and the land has been leveled, awaiting construction.

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