A proposed Costco store generally received a thumbs up from Elk Grove City Council members on Wednesday night, but the council delayed a permit approval because it wants a more attractive building.
Council members said they want the company to break up the “massiveness” of the warehouse-style building and to incorporate stone and glass to make it more compatible with the looks of a commercial center of smaller shops and businesses planned nearby.
Costco proposes to build a store in what is now a vacant field near Elk Grove Boulevard and Bruceville Road. The property is owned by an affiliate of the Sacramento-based real estate firm Pappas Investments.
During Wednesday night’s hearing, council members discussed whether to waive further environmental review of the project and grant Costco a conditional use permit for a 150,000-square-foot warehouse store with 750 parking spaces and up to 30 gas pumps. City staff said it is possible to waive additional review under the California Environmental Quality Act because the location is already slated for commercial development under the city’s general plan and therefore may be exempt from the law.
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Nine residents spoke during the hearing, urging the council to deny Costco’s request to build there. They argued that a warehouse store that draws thousands of customers per day is better suited near a freeway. The Elk Grove Boulevard site is in the middle of the city and abuts residential neighborhoods.
Barbara Hull said she and her husband moved to Elk Grove 4 1/2 years ago and thought community leaders were committed to good design and planning. But Hull said she was dismayed to learn a Costco was planned on heavily traveled Elk Grove Boulevard, citing concerns about the effects of additional vehicle traffic on students and bicycle riders.
Other speakers echoed her concerns.
Although no one from the community spoke in favor of the project during the hearing, council members said the phone calls and emails they had received from residents were overwhelmingly in support of bringing Costco to the city.
Councilman Steven Detrick said he had heard from about 200 people who favored the project and only about a dozen who were opposed.
Mike Debrota, a broker with Northwest Atlantic based in Orange County, said Costco would not consider other sites in Elk Grove. If it did not build at Elk Grove Boulevard and Bruceville Road, alternative locations would be in Lodi or off Interstate 5 in Sacramento, he said.
Debrota also denied that Costco was seeking incentives or subsidies for the Elk Grove project, although Mayor Gary Davis said subsidies had been requested in meetings city officials had with Costco representatives in 2008. A city staff report prior to the meeting said the property owner told the city that the project would not be financially viable without “an economic incentive from the city in an amount to be determined.”
Jenifer Murillo, Costco’s director of real estate, said the firm was willing to work with the city on requested architectural modifications and could return with a revised design July 13.
Although some council members indicated they were prepared to approve the conditional use permit Wednesday night, staff members advised them to wait until they see the new design.
Councilman Darren Suen recused himself from consideration of the project, citing his ownership of Costco stock. He has between $10,001 and $100,000 in company shares, according to his public disclosure filing. Suen left the council chamber during the hearing.