UKIAH, 8/12/17 — On Monday, August 7, Ukiah City Councilman Steve Scalmanini filed an appeal to the Ukiah City Planning Commission’s decision to grant a site development permit for a Costco store and fueling station. At a hearing on July 26, the Ukiah City Planning Commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Linda Thompson dissenting, to approve the permit for the facility. Costco representatives told the commission that they planned to begin construction in September, and finish by April of 2018. The project was initially approved in 2014, but was delayed by a lawsuit over the certification of the Environmental Impact Review (EIR). In 2016, the California State Court of Appeals ruled that an energy analysis had to be included in the EIR. In June of 2017, the Ukiah City Council certified the EIR, including the energy analysis, and approved the proposed rezoning of the site on Airport Park Boulevard where the facility would be located.
In an interview, Scalmanini contended that the store would attract “thousands of customers from long distances on a regular basis,” which, he reasoned, would cause an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. He believes that these should be mitigated by requiring Costco to put solar panels on one of its stores, either on the one that is planned for Ukiah or one in another location. A press release from the City of Ukiah stated that the EIR and energy analysis concluded that “Costco’s use of energy did not require mitigations and would not result in wasteful, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy,” due in part to “the fact that 49% of the City of Ukiah’s electrical energy already comes from eligible non-carbon producing renewable sources and an additional 25% comes from large scale hydroelectric projects.”
Scalmanini believes it would be acceptable for the company to solarize a store in a location where solar power is more cost-effective. He insisted that he was not opposed to having a Costco in Ukiah. “I don’t want to delay it,” he said. “I want it done right the first time.”
Shannon Riley, Ukiah’s deputy city manager, said in an interview that the city has “no ability to mandate solar panels on a building outside our jurisdiction.” She said that air quality recommendations from the county did not include solar panels, but did address tree plantings, a concrete pad for a future bus stop, and encouraging the use of electric vehicles by including charging stations for electric vehicles. Riley said that the city has received inquiries from a variety of businesses which seem to be interested in being located near Costco.
In a widely viewed Facebook post on Wednesday, Ukiah City Councilwoman Maureen Mulheren urged supporters to ask Scalmanini to withdraw his appeal, though she stressed the importance of civility and kindness (the full video is at the end of this article). “Of course the community cares about the environment,” she told the Mendo Voice in an interview. “But the project has been thoroughly vetted.” She urged members of the public to come to the next regular Ukiah CIty Council meeting on August 16 to present their points of view during the public comment period. Costco is not on the agenda for that meeting. A special hearing for the appeal has been scheduled for August 24, but Mulheren fears that the hearing would trigger further delays to the project. For this reason, she hopes that Scalmanini can be persuaded to withdraw his appeal before the 24th. “I’m not sure he clearly understands the impacts of his last-minute appeal,” she said. “I think it’s a bigger deal than he thinks.”
The hearing could create the possibility of a 90-day judicial challenge to the site development permit. According to David Rapport, Ukiah’s city attorney, if a party has exhausted administrative remedies and has standing to file a judicial challenge, that challenge could be reviewed by a court. Costco is buying the property where it plans to locate the planned facility from the city’s successor agency, which took over city assets from the redevelopment agency. Costco is not required to close escrow on the property until all entitlements, including the site development permit, are not subject to judicial challenge. Rapport added that “You could speculate that at a minimum that would delay construction substantially.”
The special Ukiah City Council meeting to hear Scalmanini’s appeal is scheduled for Thursday, August 24, at 5pm in the City Council chambers. You can read more about the project's development in our previous articles, including the public hearing in May and the City's Council's decision in April to apply for a loan for the project.
Here's Mulheren's post:
Sarah Reith, email@example.com