By JACK WEATHERLY
The Ridgeland Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 Tuesday night to move forward with a site plan allowing a Costco Wholesale Store fueling station.
But the plan faces a legal obstacle much like the plan for the Costco Wholesale store that was struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
That 7-0 vote by the Supreme Court on April 21 said the aldermen’s amendment of a zoning ordinance was illegal and done only to accommodate placing the store on the east side of Highland Colony Parkway as the anchor for the third phase of the Renaissance at Colony Park mall.
Nine residents in the vicinity filed a lawsuit in 2016, contending that the building of the wholesale outlet on the 45-acre site with its a fueling station would attract heavy traffic and change the complexion of the area, which includes upscale neighborhoods.
The city won a victory in Madison County Circuit Court but lost at the state’s highest court.
But the ruling did not preclude the building of the 100,000-square-foot-plus store – only that it could not include a fueling station as part of that plan.
So the Issaquah, Wash.-based chain approached the city with a plan for a separate station, which is just south of the 45-acre Phase 3 site and on the west side of Highland Colony Parkway.
The developer is Renaissance at Colony Park Phase 3 LLC headed by Jackson-based Andrew Mattiace.
The minority of the aldermen argued against the fueling station plan, which was recently passed unanimously by the city Architectural Review Board, because the city has not approved the wholesale store site in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.
Nevertheless, the board approved the station, which would use slightly more than two acres of a nine-acre parcel.
A lawsuit was filed May 21 in Madison County Circuit Court alleging that the city has acted “in direct violation of the law” to accommodate the station.
Steve Maloney, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the latest case, Beard et al v. City of Ridgeland, said Tuesday night that “this is another end run” by the city. The city had not been served with the suit as of Tuesday, Maloney said earlier.
McGee said Thursday in a phone interview that “obviously, the lawsuit has no merit,” calling it “frivolous.”
Plaintiffs in the case that went to the Supreme Court said that the city acted surreptitiously in amending the zoning ordinance for the specific benefit of Costco.
The latest lawsuit, which includes six of the nine plaintiffs in the first case, contends that the city decided against allowing a storage facility on the two acres of the nine-acre parcel only after the city fared poorly in oral arguments before a three-justice panel of the Supreme Court on Feb. 5.
Previously, the city Zoning Board approved a plan for Storage Park Properties LLC to rezone the nine-acre parcel to C-3 to C-2, and grant it conditional use.
But after the unfavorable Supreme Court ruling, the board of aldermen imposed a 90-day moratorium on storage facilities, then changed the zoning ordinance, blocking storage facilities on C-3 property.
The suit cites an interview in the Northside Sun on May 10 that said that storage facilities would not be good “first impressions of the city.”
Maloney, who lives in the Greenwood Plantation neighborhood in the vicinity of the site, told the aldermen that they were taking up the matter of a Costco fueling station before the way was cleared for the Costco store.
“You’re putting the cart in front of the horse,” Maloney said.
Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard, who would be one of the three voting against the site plan, asked: “What would we have if Costco doesn’t come?”
City Attorney Jerry Mills said: “A fueling station.”
Maloney said after the meeting that he sometimes disagrees with what the city considers legal – and so does the Mississippi Supreme Court.
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