Ukiah Costco clears another key hurdle

The Ukiah City Council on Wednesday night denied most of an appeal seeking changes to a permit for a 148,000 square-foot Costco store planned along Highway 101 southeast of downtown.

"We have what I think is a very good project," said Councilman Benj Thomas.

The vote was 4-1, with recently appointed Councilman Steve Scalmanini voting no. He said he did not believe the council adequately addressed issues raised in the appeal.

Critics of the Costco project had asked the council to require multiple alterations to Costco's plans, most of them aimed at protecting a wetland area adjacent to the Costco property.

Major requests included moving Costco's 15-pump fueling station farther from the wetlands, altering parking lot lights so they would have less impact on wetlands wildlife; collecting and storing rainwater from the store's roof; and adding solar panels to the roof to offset greenhouse gases generated by the store.

Costco officials prior to the hearing agreed to make some changes in response to the appeal, such as planting native trees and plants in an area near the wetlands. They also said they will shunt some rainwater runoff from their roofs directly to plants, but they will not store the water for summer use. Solar panels will be considered after the store is open, said Michael Okuma, Costco's director of real estate.

Costco representatives, who hope to open the store in 2015, defended their existing plans.

They said their lighting complies with regulations aimed at reducing glare and that their gas station uses technology designed to avoid gasoline spills and runoff into waterways.

A majority of city council members said they were happy with the project.

The new store already is going to be a "model of sustainability" compared with other Ukiah businesses, said Councilwoman Mary Anne Landis.

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