LAKE STEVENS — In a community with Costco on its collective mind, Tuesday was the first chance to talk directly to city leaders about the prospect of the wholesale giant coming to town.
Testimony stretched into the night as an overflow crowd packed the council meeting, spilling into the hallways outside the chambers. The council ultimately decided to continue the hearing to Dec. 10 and allow more time for written comments.
In recent weeks, neighbors had asked the city to move the date of the meeting because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Some thought it kept people from attending because of plans with loved ones.
For months, those who live in the area have expressed their concerns and excitement.
Some look forward to the new store because of the tax revenue it could bring in for city projects and the number of jobs it could create. Others are worried about noise and traffic, along with harm construction could create on the environment.
Tuesday night’s meeting was the first time a public hearing on Costco had been held before the city council.
More than 100 people showed up to the 7 p.m. meeting. People lined up around the room after every seat was filled.
Once the meeting started, councilmember and Mayor-elect Brett Gailey announced that Mayor John Spencer’s wife had passed away the night before. Gailey asked for a moment of silence. Spencer was not in attendance.
At first microphones weren’t working in the room, and a portable speaker system had to be brought in.
About 30 minutes after the meeting started, Costco talks began. Melissa Place, senior planner for the city, explained the project and talked about the response she’s heard so far.
“The city has received numerous public comments both in favor of and opposed to the project, and I think this room tonight shows that,” she said.
Soon after, Costco representative Brian Whelan addressed the crowd. He said one main reason Costco has chosen Lake Stevens for a new location is because of population growth in recent years.
To enter Costco, shoppers must pay for a membership card each year. More than 40,000 Costco members live in the Lake Stevens area and visit nearby stores in Marysville, Everett and near Woodinville, and spend about $125 million each year, he told the crowd.
If Costco did move into the city, the company would hire about 300 employees with a minimum wage of $15.50 per hour, he said.
After Whelan spoke, more than a dozen people from the audience lined up near the front of the room to speak.
Local business owner Doug Turner, of Turners Grocery, was the first to the podium. His store is on South Lake Stevens Road, just outside of the city. He feels that the city hasn’t listened to the concerns people have. One example he gave was of a public meeting in July, where attendees were to ask Costco representatives and the state Department of Transportation questions, but did not get much feedback from the city.
“It’s no wonder the general consensus is that it’s a done deal,” he said. “It seems the public has given up on the process.”
Joyce Coply of Lake Stevens is in favor of Costco coming to town. She’s noticed how much Smokey Point has changed for the better since one of the wholesale stores was built there. She also would like a shorter drive for her groceries.
“I don’t want to go to Smokey Point and watch them thrive,” she said. “I don’t want my city to continue to be broke.”
David Clay, who lives near the proposed site, is not opposed to Costco but doesn’t think it’s the right location.
He’s most worried about the traffic it could create, and already has problems leaving his house on 45th Place SE.
“I can’t get out on the road from where I live,” he said.
City councilmember Marcus Tageant recused himself from the conversation and left the room when Costco came up.
He’s a real estate agent for Task Properties, and his name is on “for sale” signs near the Costco site. He cannot confirm or deny that he’s involved with the potential sale because of non-disclosure agreements, he has said.
If the development agreement passes in the future, the company’s next steps would be to ask for approval of a construction plan and then to apply for building permits.
As proposed, the 160,000-square-foot store would be at the southwest corner of Highway 9 and 20th Street Southeast, near South Lake Stevens Road.
It would also include a 30-pump gas station and more than 800 parking spots. The development would cover about 37 acres.
Two new roads also would be added, South Lake Stevens Road would be reconfigured and a roundabout would be added to Highway 9.
Testimony closed around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday and the council voted to continue the public comment period into December.