No decision made by Costco opponents about filing appeal

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Opponents of the Ridgeland Costco hadn’t decided at press time whether they’d appeal a judge’s decision to allow the store to locate a gas station on property across from the Highland Colony Parkway development.

In February, a Madison County Circuit Court judge ruled that developers could move forward with building a gas station on acreage zoned for C-3 commercial development across from the proposed Costco Wholesale site.

The gas station will be owned and operated by Costco and was previously to be located in the store’s parking lot. However, that plan was struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Judge Steve Ratcliff entered his ruling on Monday, February 25. Opponents have 30 calendar days to appeal the decision, but attorney Steve Maloney was pretty sure his clients would take the case to a higher court.

“It may go directly to the supreme court … or it may go to the court of appeals,” Maloney said. “I’m 99 percent certain that we will appeal.”

Under state rules, all appeals of circuit rulings are filed with the state’s high court. Justices then determine whether to hear the case themselves or pass it down to the state appeals court.

At the heart of the matter is whether a gas station can locate on a site across from the main Costco development.

The Ridgeland mayor and board approved plans for the filling station last June.

Opponents said the decision should be vacated, because the city had previously not allowed a developer to bring a storage facility to the site.

They argued that a moratorium put on storage facilities prior to the gas station vote was done specifically so the gas station could locate there.

 

The group also argued that the decision was null and void because two aldermen should have recused themselves because of their respective conflicts of interest.

The aldermen in question are Ward Two representative Chuck Gautier and Ward Six leader Wesley Hamlin.

According to documents, Gautier is a real estate agent who represents the Kerioth Corporation, which supported the initial Costco efforts. Kerioth owns the Township, a mixed-use development located north of the Costco site.

Meanwhile, Hamlin is a team member of Christ Life Church of the Highlands, located at 670 Highland Colony, next to the proposed Costco site.

The gas station was approved on a 4-3 vote, with Gautier and Hamlin voting in favor.

Ratcliff disagreed, saying that the two shouldn’t have recused themselves because the matter was not a rezoning issue.

“The property was zoned C-3 and has been for quite some time. Nothing about either alderman’s employment gave rise to an issue requiring or even justifying recusal,” the judge wrote.

He further ruled that the gas station meets all requirements under Ridgeland’s zoning ordinance.

The Costco will be located on the south side of a 45-acre plot south of the Old Agency Road roundabout. It will be the anchor tenant of the third phase of Renaissance at Colony Park, which is being developed by Andrew Mattiace and H.C. Bailey.

Dirt work has been under way at the site for months, but the store itself does not appear to be under construction.

Those bringing the suit include Gerald Beard, Charles Michel, Harold Byrd, Nils Mungan, George Shepard and William Aden.

Ratcliff’s decision represents yet another ruling in the Costco matter, which has dragged on for years.

 

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