By JACK WEATHERLY
A week after the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down rezoning that would have accommodated a Costco Wholesale store planned for Ridgeland the status of the project remains in the dark.
Speculation is that the ruling simply would not allow the store on Highland Colony Parkway to have gasoline pumps, but that the 100,000-square-foot store could move forward.
That interpretation is apparently based, at least in part, on the court’s finding of fact that Alan Hart, director of Community Development for the city ,stated in an email in 2014 to a Costco representative – well before the project surfaced because of public outcries – that “the sale of all goods except for the fuel center complied with the City’s current zoning regulations.”
The amended C-2 ordinance would have allowed drive-through retail beyond the retail sale of gasoline.
Sheldon Alston, attorney for nine homeowners who sued the city, said in an interview after the ruling that “what they build there [would have to be] consistent with the original zoning. Can that be a Costco? I’d have to see the plan.”
“I think the Supreme Court ruled correctly on all points we have been making from the beginning,” Alston said.
“Our argument from the beginning wasn’t that it wasn’t about Costco. It was about allowing gas stations, drive-through restaurants and other things to accommodate the Costco.”
The Supreme Court ruled that the city acted arbitrarily and capriciously to amend the ordinance in favor of Costco.
The amended ordinance would allow such changes “without showing a substantial change in neighborhood character [and so] the amendments constituted an illegal rezoning,” the order reads.
“In addition, because the amendments were entirely designed to suit Costco, the amendments constituted illegal spot-zoning as well.”
Meantime, Mayor Gene McGee said on Wednesday that he had not talked with the Issaquah, Wash.-based chain since the rulingabout its intentions for the site, which has been cleared and graded.
Costco has a policy of not commenting on plans, and did not reveal its thoughts on the matter to the Mississippi Business Journal last week.
The Northside Sun on April 20 quoted Chief Executive Craig Jelinek as saying that “at the moment, we have not changed our plans.”
Calls by the Mississippi Business Journal to developer Andrew Mattiace of Jackson were not returned.
Not all Costcos have gas stations.
The court reversed a ruling by Judge John Emfinger in Madison County Circuit Court. It ruled that the city of Ridgeland hadn’t proved that the rezoning was justified and had illegally tailored its decision to aid Mattiace, who planned for a so-called third phase of Renaissance at Colony Park, an open-air shopping mall.
A three-justice panel on Feb. 5 fired questions at the city’s attorneys during oral arguments, foreshadowing the ruling
The court voted 7-0, with two abstentions, in favor of homeowners, who filed suit against the city in 2016.
The homeowners in nearby affluent subdivisions say they’re worried about increased traffic because of the wholesale store and possible devaluation of their property.
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