The Ukiah Planning Commission Wednesday night approved the final city permit needed to build a Costco store.
"They have everything they need from us," said Ukiah Planning Commissioner Judy Pruden.
Unless the decision is appealed to the City Council, all that stands in the way of Costco's progress are a few routine state permits, completion of a land purchase from the city and a planned Highway 101 interchange improvement, she said.
The city plans to spend about $4 million to reshape the Highway 101 on- and off-ramps at Talmage Road to accommodate the additional traffic generated by Costco and other new stores that are expected to follow.
"It will change Ukiah in certain ways," Pruden said. "What we're hoping for as a community is it will turn us into a regional shopping center that will bless everyone."
Pruden said Costco officials expect to open the store in 2015. It cannot open until the interchange improvements are made.
The vote on the permit was 4-1. Planning Commissioner Linda Sanders cast the no vote. She voiced concern about the proximity of the store's gas station to adjacent wetlands and was dismayed Costco is not placing solar panels on its 148,000-square-foot warehouse at a time when climate change is apparent.
"I thought the project could have been a lot better and I didn't think staff did enough to make it so," Sanders said.
During the many public hearings on the project, critics said they were worried about the impacts on traffic, air quality, seasonal wetlands, existing businesses and aesthetics.
But most city officials made it clear from the beginning they wanted Costco. They've been ardently pursuing the giant retailer for years. The store is expected to generate nearly $500,000 in revenue annually for the city of Ukiah and create 175 to 200 jobs, half of them full-time positions.
(You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)