BELLINGHAM - Mayor Kelli Linville proposed helping Costco Wholesale replace its existing store by doing more than $1.5 million in street improvements, city records show.
Linville and city staff met with Costco representatives to discuss development of a new store near West Bakerview Road and Pacific Highway, according to records obtained by The Bellingham Herald through a public disclosure request.
Linville signed a June 20 letter to David Rogers, director of real estate development for the Issaquah-based corporation, in which she proposed multiple steps to assist the company in relocating its Bellingham store. Costco has said its current Meridian Street store is substandard in size.
City staff redacted much of her letter, including sections in which she details what the city is offering. In redacting parts of the letter, city attorneys cited a state law that allows them to withhold preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations and intra-agency memos in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended.
Left unredacted were offers of street construction. The letter said the city would take the lead in construction of Dover Street, which would go north from Bakerview Road in the vicinity of Fred Meyer.
The city also would commit to building the Division Street connector within the next five to 10 years, she wrote. Division Street would connect to Pacific Highway and provide direct access between Dover Street and the highway, just north of the development site, she wrote.
"We expect this important connection will provide Costco customers with a convenient route to the Slater/I-5 interchange," she wrote.
The city is currently planning and seeking funding to extend Horton Road, which the city expects would help relieve congestion at the Interstate 5-Bakerview Road interchange, she wrote.
Staff engineers estimate the Dover Street work would cost close to $500,000 and the development of the Horton Road and Division Road segments would exceed $1 million, she wrote.
"As you know, any agreement is subject to (City) Council approval and legal review," she wrote near the end of the letter.
Rogers wrote to Linville in a June 21 email that he passed the letter to his bosses and will be assessing it against their budget. "Stay tuned. This is hopeful," he wrote.
Emails indicate Rogers and other Costco representatives met city staff, including Linville, during a June 12 meeting.
The emails also show company representatives discussed wetlands with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Ecology.
Ecology Wetlands Specialist Susan Meyer wrote in a March 28 email to wetlands consultant Ed Sewall that, while the entire area between I-5 and Northwest Avenue is mostly a highly functioning wetlands complex, the potential Costco site does not seem to have the larger wetlands. The site has several smaller wetlands that serve certain functions, however, and before moving forward with the project it will be necessary to determine what ecosystem services they provide and what the consequences of filling them would be, she wrote.
Costco would need to document justifications for why the current Bellingham store can't be expanded, she wrote, as well as demonstrate avoiding and minimizing wetland impacts.
Rogers forwarded the email to city planners, writing that "she must not have been to the Bellingham Costco or she would understand the difficulties with expansion."
In a March 27 email to Sewall, Randel Perry, who works in the regulatory branch of the Corps of Engineers, discussed the Corps' wetlands permitting.
"Our analysis must conclude that the proposed project site and design represents the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative," he wrote.
Sewall sent a copy of the email to Rogers, saying the Corps "won't commit to any guarantee of approval or anything at this point."
Costco Wholesale representatives previously talked with city of Ferndale staff about requirements for building a store at Slater Road. Ferndale has tried to attract large retailers, which yield substantial sales tax revenues for local governments.
In July, Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen said a Costco representative told him the retailer decided to build a new store in Bellingham, not Ferndale. The retailer doesn't like to leave communities, Jensen said he was told.
Costco doesn't comment to the media about its plans in specific markets.
Linville previously said she was discussing with the company a specific property for a new store, but she wouldn't identify the property or provide details of discussions. She was working to put together a proposal to bring to the City Council, she said.
SEE THE DOCUMENTS
The Bellingham Herald obtained several documents through a public disclosure request that are related to a possible new Costco store in Bellingham. Click on the links below to read a copy (PDF) of: