A portion of the site of the proposed Lake Stevens Costco (bottom) at the intersection of Highway 9 (right) and South Lake Stevens Road (below, out of view). (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)

A portion of the site of the proposed Lake Stevens Costco (bottom) at the intersection of Highway 9 (right) and South Lake Stevens Road (below, out of view). (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)

Purchase Photo

Legal battle stalls Costco’s planned store in Lake Stevens

“We intend to keep them in court until they get tired of us and go away,” an opponent of the project said.

LAKE STEVENS — Costco is still on track to build a warehouse store along Highway 9, but a legal battle has stalled the project for months.

So far the wholesale giant has all its city permits and is waiting on federal permission to fill wetlands on the site, according to the city. The Issaquah-based company intends to develop 37 acres at the southwest corner of Highway 9 and 20th Street SE.

It would include a 160,000-square-foot warehouse store, a 30-pump gas station and more than 800 parking spots, according to plans filed with the city. Two new roads are also proposed on the south and west sides of the plot: one connected to 20th Street SE and the other to Highway 9 by a roundabout.

“I’m dreading the roundabout,” resident Doug Turner said.

Turner lives about half a mile from the proposed site. He ran a store there for 30 years called Turner’s Grocery. He closed the shop and retired at the end of 2019.

Turner is part of a group called Livable Lake Stevens. They oppose the development and have filed lawsuits against Costco and the city.

“It’s not about Costco, it’s about the location,” Turner said. “It’s a very poor location. It’s bordered by a two-lane Highway 9, a two-lane 20th Street, and it’s too close to our rural neighborhood. We are still unincorporated here.”

He would like to preserve the trees, wetlands and other nature on the property. He is also worried about more traffic on nearby roads.

In April, the neighborhood group appealed the city’s decision to approve Costco’s permits. About seven months later the city hearing examiner denied the appeal, court records show.

Livable Lake Stevens filed the Land Use Petition Act lawsuit in December. A Snohomish County Superior Court judge dismissed the case in late January.

“We intend to keep them in court until they get tired of us and go away,” Turner said.

Costco’s concept site plan. (City of Lake Stevens)

Costco’s concept site plan. (City of Lake Stevens)

It’s not clear yet when construction could start. Costco does not comment on new stores within a few months of development, the company has said.

Turner considers hundreds of people to be part of Livable Lake Stevens, based on petition signatures and Facebook followers.

Attorney Karl G. Anuta represents the group and has challenged Costco and other big-box corporations before. He’s licensed to work in Washington and Oregon, and his office in Portland.

Anuta is not sure yet about the next steps. He is waiting to see if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will allow Costco to fill the wetlands, and how the state Department of Transportation proceeds with road work related to the project.

Anuta believes the city moved forward with the project too quickly without considering how residents felt.

“In the view of Livable Lake Stevens, the city tried to steamroll a project through,” he said. “They could have taken more time and gotten more public feedback and potentially modified aspects of the project, then there may not have been such a bitter outcry at the end of the process.”

This area, called the 20th Street corridor, has been zoned for commercial use since 2012. If Costco doesn’t move in, another retailer could, Lake Stevens planning and community development director Russ Wright said.

“Other developers have been waiting and watching to see how this goes, this project,” he said. “There are some other developers waiting to do some commercial-type development along the 20th Street corridor.”

So far, he said, there has only been general interest.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

Timeline

March 2018: Then-Mayor John Spencer says Costco may have plans to build in Lake Stevens.

April 2019: Costco applies for its first city permits.

July 2019: More than 100 people gathers to hear from city officials and Costco representatives who shared early plans.

October 2019: Costco applies for more city permits.

November 2019: Costco talks come to a head when hundreds crowd into the Lake Stevens City Council chambers. Testimony stretches into the night. The council decides to continue the hearing later.

December 2019: A big crowd gathers again in front of the city council. After hours of public comment, the council unanimously votes to approve Costco’s development agreement, serving as a contract between Costco and the city. The company still needs several city permits.

March 2020: Costco asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fill wetlands on the proposed site.

April 2020: Lake Stevens approves three of the company’s permits. A couple of weeks later, Livable Lake Stevens appeals those approvals, according to court documents.

November 2020: The city hearing examiner denies Livable Lake Stevens’ appeals.

December 2020: Livable Lake Stevens files a Land Use Petition Act lawsuit.

January 2021: A Snohomish County Superior Court judge dismisses the Land Use Petition Act case. Costco has its city permits and waits on a decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fill wetlands on the site before it can build.

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