Costco can start clearing the land for its planned new store off West Bakerview Road.
The city issued site work permits Tuesday, July 28, which means the company can now clear and grade the site for its new warehouse on 20 acres on the north side of the road near Pacific Highway.
The new store is planned to be about 162,000 square feet, with 800 parking spaces and 24 fuel pumps. The existing Meridian Street store is 133,000 square feet.
Costco did not immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment. The company has not said what will happen to the existing store.
The company still needs to finish submitting some stormwater drainage and road construction plans to the city before it can get building permits, said Brian Heinrich, deputy administrator for the city.
To accommodate the project and others in the area, the city has started to build a regional stormwater treatment pond. The new $4.5 million treatment facility is expected to be ready this fall. Costco will pick up $1.15 million of the price tag.
In addition to the proposed Costco, the stormwater pond will serve two retail shopping centers and a residential development planned in the area west of Interstate 5 and north of West Bakerview.
As other projects go in, they will be asked to pay their share for using the treatment pond, Heinrich said.
The pond can detain and treat roughly 2.8 million gallons.
“Our goals include retaining and growing existing businesses, as well as providing excellent infrastructure and regulatory services,” Mayor Kelli Linville said in a prepared statement. “We are targeting city investments to make sure we are supporting development in appropriate and desirable areas. We appreciate the decision from Costco to expand in Bellingham.”
Last year, Fred Meyer and Lummi Nation appealed the city’s preliminary approval of wetlands, stormwater and street modifications along West Bakerview to accommodate the new store. Lummi Nation dropped its appeal of the environmental review in July 2014.
Under a settlement agreement with nearby Fred Meyer, the store is not to open sooner than August 2016, and several road improvements in the area will need to take place to help with traffic concerns.
The store will make up for the loss of wetlands on the site by restoring wetlands on two parcels it bought from the city just off Northwest Avenue. Currently, the wetlands on the proposed site are covered with scattered buildings, mobile homes, trash, tires, old plastic quart oil containers, old diapers and other debris, according to a permit application to the state Department of Ecology. That permit was granted.
The city still owns the parcels, but Costco, which paid nearly $500,000 for them, will be responsible for maintaining them. The overall plan will create slightly more wetlands than will be impacted.
Costco also purchased Lummi Mitigation bank wetlands to offset impacts.