Planners OK Costco zoning change
The process to bring Costco to Carson City continued to roll forward Monday as members of the Regional Planning Commission agreed to a zoning change for part of Fuji Park.
If approved by city supervisors in January, it will allow commercial development on a site zoned for public use – the fifth of six steps in a public process.
Planning commissioners also voted to add the 15 acres at highways 395 and 50 to the city’s redevelopment district, part of a controversial move by the city to negotiate a sale to Costco.
Costco wants to build a warehouse store at the south Carson City intersection. If the property is part of the redevelopment district, city officials may negotiate with a single buyer rather than go through a public bid process.
Commissioners split on the two decisions. Roger Sedway, Verne Horton, Allan Christianson, Alan Rogers and Keith Larkin voted to add the land to the redevelopment district, with William Mally voting no.
On changing the land’s zoning, the vote was 4-2 with Mally and Larkin the dissenters. Commissioner Richard Wipfli was absent.
The city’s master plan identifies the 15-acre site, which lies north of Fuji Park across Clear Creek Road, for commercial development. Neighboring parcels are zoned for commercial use.
But planning commissioners on Monday raised questions about the future of Fuji Park and other city land deals.
“I’m not in favor of this,” Mally said. “Will Costco build a new Fuji Park? Who will be responsible for all the accidents and deaths that will take place when Costco goes in there?”
Commissioners were reminded they were only to consider the land use change, but their conversation continued to swirl around the future of the park.
Fuji Park has a master plan for expansion, which users charge has been denied funding because development always loomed on the horizon.
Resident Janet Riggs suggested the fate of the parcel seemed set, “like sitting in a little boat under the guns of Navarone. It’s going to go.”
“I’m a little bewildered by a master plan,” Riggs said. “Somehow we don’t seem to be able to get a master plan that says a park is a park is a park. Soon all of Carson City will be paved, developed or commercial. That’s good, but it’s not the life Carson City needs. Let’s try to hang on to what we have, if you please.”
The 15-acre parcel, described repeatedly as an “underdeveloped dirt lot,” would have to be considered “blighted” – defined as underdeveloped or underused – to become part of the city’s redevelopment district.
Deputy District Attorney Neil Rombardo said Fuji Park could not be added to the redevelopment district under the “blighted” definition, but the Costco site does fit the definition.
Steve Kastens, director of parks and recreation, noted relocation of the park would be a bridge to cross in the future.
“I’m curious of the precedent being set by the redevelopment district,” Sedway said. “If we’re going to piecemeal this together, why don’t we designate everything the city owns as redevelopment? Then when that pesky bid situation you alluded to gets in the way, we won’t be back here to discuss this.
“The true finding of this is the timing of it all. The reason it’s coming to us is because going for a (request for proposal bid) is too time consuming. In a future project we’ll be back here doing this again.”
The commission will also have to deal with future permits generated by any developer, so members also expressed concerns over the effect redevelopment status would have on a special use permit.
Special use permits put limits and specifications on what developers can do with buildings over 50,000 square feet. In the redevelopment district, incentives are offered to encourage development. Community Development Director Walt Sullivan said no specifications would be waived because of a property’s redevelopment status.
Resident Jill Carsten reminded commissioners of other major retail stores that come offering big things.
“Remember the big deal with Ernst?” Carsten asked. “Who’s to say that Costco won’t build a store and then say, ‘You’re not busy enough.’ Then we’ll have another empty building just like Ernst.”