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

Shovel alert: Groundbreaking on Lake Stevens Costco is near

A land sale in early June cleared the way. The mayor says dirt could be flying as soon as next week.

LAKE STEVENS — Any day now, Costco could break ground on one of its trademark big-box stores in Lake Stevens.

The City Council cleared the way earlier this month when it approved the sale of lots 21 and 22 of the Glenwood division, totaling 13 acres, to the corporate giant.

On June 8, councilmembers passed a motion for Mayor Brett Gailey to sign the $3.81 million purchase and sale agreement with the company. Once the deal closes, possibly Friday, Costco will be positioned to start clearing land and building the store and gas station off 24th Street and South Lake Stevens Road.

The motion passed 6-0, with Councilman Marcus Tageant abstaining, as he has previously on Costco matters due to a conflict of interest. Tagent is a real estate agent for Task Properties, and his name appeared on “for sale” signs near the Costco site. He cannot confirm or deny his involvement in the sale because of non-disclosure agreements, he has said.

Gailey said he’s “elated. It’ll be really great to finally see some dirt flying over there.” Developers could break ground as soon as Tuesday and finish in fall of next year, he said.

Costco officials declined to comment.

The breaking of ground will mark a major milestone.

City Councilmember Kim Daughtry said the property has been envisioned as a home for significant economic development for over a decade. City officials have said other retailers, such as Fred Meyer, also eyed the site. Costco saw the potential in the growing city and took on the challenge.

“The most important thing is the city is doing their finest to try to enhance the livability of Lake Stevens,” Daughtry said. “We want to (create the) ability for citizens to live and play right around their own home. If we can cut down the time spent on the roads, then that’s great, that helps improve their quality of life — everything we do goes in that direction.”

The approximately 160,000-square-foot Costco will bring a number of jobs starting at $16 per hour. Costco CEO Craig Jelinek said earlier this year that the average hourly employee wage is around $24 per hour.

Costco has all the city, state and federal permits it needs and can begin work once the property sale closes, said Russ Wright, the city’s community development director.

A development agreement, refined since 2019, spells out the company’s obligations on such things as road and stormwater improvements and environmental mitigation.

As construction proceeds, the state Department of Transportation will be working on traffic improvements at the intersection of 24th Street SE and South Lake Stevens Road.

The state intends to convert the intersection into a roundabout, widen South Lake Stevens Road, build a wet-pond stormwater facility and replace the Centennial Creek culvert with a stream simulation under South Lake Stevens Road.

Costco and the city also will be undertaking numerous improvements. Costco will pay $2.8 million to the city to cover its share of offsite road improvements, under the development agreement.

The Lake Stevens Costco has taken about three years to reach this point. It’s not been without some pushback from the community.

Livable Lake Stevens, a grassroots community group, has opposed the project. It filed a Land Use Petition Act lawsuit in December 2020 that slowed the iconic retailer’s development. That was dismissed in late January.

Doug Turner, former owner of Turner’s Grocery and a member of Livable Lake Stevens, said that the group is concerned, among other things, about the project’s impact on the landscape and environment.

“It’s a beautiful property,” Turner said. “They need to cut about 1,600 trees, it’s so sad.”

The group’s efforts to stop the construction of a Costco have come to a lull, though Turner said the group is hoping to put pressure on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to produce a document with the rationale for the project to fill the wetlands on the property.

Similarly, the Tulalip Tribes expressed concern about the loss of the wetlands in a December 2019 letter, also recognizing that developments have resulted in stream habitat degradation and degraded water quality and thus loss of coho salmon.

“The Tulalip Tribes consider the potential habitat loss associated with this project and associated reduction in salmonid production a detriment to tribal treaty resources,” Fish and Wildlife Director Jason Gobin wrote. “The Tulalip Tribes recommend the project not be built at the location as proposed, but if approved by the community the City and Costco continue efforts to minimize and mitigate impacts on site … to the fullest extent possible.”

Costco’s project will result in the loss of 1.84 acres of wetlands.

The city and Costco “had to be really cognizant of the wetlands” and Mosher Creek, Daughtry said. That led Costco to edit and resubmit some of its plans, such as adding culverts for fish passage.

To offset that loss, the firm must create 0.82 acres of wetlands on a neighboring site and buy credits in Snohomish County’s wetland mitigation bank. Also, the company must remove three off-site culverts impeding fish passage into a tributary of Mosher Creek and replace three others with a stream simulation.

As for trees, Wright didn’t know the exact number but said it will be a “substantial amount.” The company must replace them on a 3:1 ratio in an area designated for forest restoration.

Livable Lake Stevens is also concerned about increased traffic generated by the warehouse store and gas station.

Daughtry said there was community outreach on the development along the way, where such concerns were heard.

He said he believes there are two factors to consider: While the Costco is going to create additional traffic, it’s also going to bring in revenue. In November 2019, Costco representative Brian Whelan told the community that more than 40,000 Costco members live in the Lake Stevens area and spend about $125 million each year.

“We can look at ourselves as a bedroom community, but we do have to bring in enough retailers to sustain us,” he said.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @BredaIsabella

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