By JACK WEATHERLY
Madison County Circuit Court Judge Steve Ratcliff ruled in favor of the city of Ridgeland in its approval of a site for a gas station for a proposed Costco Whole store.
Ratcliff, who ruled from the bench Feb. 7 for the city, signed the order on Monday.
With that, homeowners can now appeal to the state Supreme Court.
“We have thirty days from the order to file a notice of appeal. I am 99% sure that we will appeal,” Steve Maloney, attorney for six homeowners who have challenged the city’s action, said in an email on Tuesday.
“When both parties are willing and able to take their arguments to the highest available court, the only decision that matters is the last one.”
Homeowners in upscale neighborhoods who believe that the high-volume wholesale store would disrupt and devalue their property, already have a major victory over the city and Renaissance at Colony Park Phase 3 LLC led by Andrew Mattiace.
The state Supreme Court ruled 7-0 last April that the city had acted illegally in rezoning a 45-acre plot on the Highland Colony Parkway to allow a fueling station, a particularly nettlesome aspect to the plaintiffs.
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 Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 on June 19 to approve the fueling station site, which would be located on about two acres of a 9.5-acre plot.
Homeowners sued, arguing that the city once again had wrongly decided to accommodate the development.
Also, the suit argued that two of the aldermen, Charles “Chuck” Gautier and Wesley Hamlin, should have recused themselves because conflicts of interest.
Ratcliff wrote that “nothing about either alderman’s employment gave rise to an issue requiring or even justifying recusal.”
Also, Ratcliff said that “the city’s approval of the site plan is supported by substantial evidence and not arbitrary or capricious.”
Would Costco move forward with its store should it lose in the Supreme Court?
Not all Costcos have fueling stations, but a Costco official said in another case in another state that “plans for every new store include a gasoline fueling station.”
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