Costco broke new ground, but the Lake Stevens group is suing again

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LAKE STEVENS – A group of Lake Stevens residents who have spent years trying to stop a massive Costco warehouse from coming to town are filing new lawsuits, this time in federal court.

Land began at Costco’s future site in June, when city council approved the last required deal with the company. It took about three years to get there.

Livable Lake Stevens, the neighborhood coalition opposing Costco, filed a land use law suit in Snohomish County Superior Court in December 2020, which slowed the development of the iconic retailer . This was prejudiced in late January by Judge Millie Judge, who cited a lack of jurisdiction.

By July, thousands of trees on the site had been cleared.

“These weren’t old trees, but mostly mature trees,” said Doug Turner, former owner of Turner’s Grocery and de facto spokesperson for Livable Lake Stevens. “It was just sad. I went up there, took pictures and threw up.

The group sued the US Army Corps of Engineers last month in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act for agreeing to fill about 1¾ acres of wetlands and damage an additional 1.4 acres for the Costco construction.

On October 29, an attorney representing Costco said the Issaquah-based company intended to intervene.

Town mayor Brett Gailey said he was not sure what Livable Lake Stevens was trying to achieve. He noted that if the project had not met all the requirements, it would not have received the necessary state and federal permits.

“It’s a done deal,” he said.

The approved permit for the project “is inappropriate and illegal for several reasons,” the group alleges in a complaint filed on October 18.

The group alleges that the required environmental assessment and the finding of no significant impact “were not based on adequate evidence”.

Public comments submitted to the Town of Lake Stevens by the Tulalip Tribes and the Sno-King Watershed Council in 2019 stated that the construction of a 160,000 square foot Costco, plus a parking lot of approximately 800 spaces, could affect wetlands and a fish-bearing creek, Mosher Creek, on property.

“The Tulalip tribes are opposed to this project as proposed and would strongly recommend reviewing all phases of habitat protection, in particular by avoiding (not building in this area), by minimizing (a lot of infilling of wetlands ) and mitigating (site mitigation, not shoreline), ”Environmentalist Zach Lamebull and Environmental Division Director Kurt Nelson of the Tulalip Tribes wrote in a letter on May 6, 2019.

The watershed council echoed tribal concerns in an October 2019 letter, adding that Mosher Creek is the primary spawning habitat for fish, and “no calculations have been provided to demonstrate that … flows base of the watercourse will be maintained “.

A representative of the tribal fisheries reiterated these ecological concerns.

“The Tulalip Tribes view the potential habitat loss associated with this project and the associated reduction in salmonid production to be at the expense of tribal treaty resources,” wrote Jason Gobin, Director of Fish and Wildlife. The tribes called on the city and Costco to continue their efforts to reduce the environmental impact “to the extent possible.”

After hearing concerns from residents and scientists, Costco agreed to compensate for the loss of nearly 2 acres of wetland by creating 0.8 acres of off-site wetland, adding fish-friendly culverts for Mosher Creek and purchase credits from the Snohomish County Wetland Mitigation Bank.

Turner said about 600 people in and around the city signed up to join Livable Lake Stevens when the group started protesting Costco three years ago.

Members of the group said they did not object to Costco coming to town. They just wish he didn’t have to sit on top of what was once critical habitat, said Turner, aware of the irony he was sipping from a Kirkland Signature water bottle.

Turner said he takes weekly trips to Everett Costco.

“I have nothing against Costco,” he said. “I love Costco. Most people love Costco.

Many Lake Stevens residents are supportive of the big box store’s coming to town.

Mike Beazer and his family have lived in the city for about a decade. He and his wife brave I-5 north weekend traffic to Smokey Point Costco a few times a month to get “good quality, cheap stuff” for their four children.

“Having a Costco nearby is one of the things we were looking for when we moved – we have a lot of people to feed,” he said.

A group is suing the Army Corps of Engineers, alleging that the planned construction of a Costco warehouse in Lake Stevens would violate the Clean Water Act. This August 10 aerial photo was taken after thousands of trees were cut down near homes at the end of the 2100 block of 93rd Drive SE. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)

Beazer called Lake Stevens the best place his family has ever lived. He said he understands the concerns of old-timers “wanting to live in the same place they’ve decided to live to begin with,” but he believes the advantages of a new Costco outweigh the disadvantages.

Kay McDonald, 81, has lived on her family’s property for 110 years near Cavalero Hill Community Park. It’s about a mile from the Costco construction site.

His biggest concern with Costco is not the potential of flooding his rural neighborhood with traffic, but the environmental impact of the project. Specifically, “the destruction of wildlife habitat and wetlands that feed Mosher Creek, which is a salmon stream,” McDonald said.

Likewise, David Clay, who has lived near Snohomish for about six decades, said he was concerned about the downsides as well.

“It’s amazing to me that people prefer to have more retail than a living environment,” he said.

Clay and McDonald both said they felt the town of Lake Stevens had not listened to affected residents.

Like Turner, they attended the city’s public hearings for the project and said it seemed like a done deal – city officials “had already made up their minds,” Clay said.

At one of the first public meetings, a dozen city officials and Costco representatives were on hand to answer questions. Turner said at that meeting that city officials have passed questions to Costco.

In an interview last week, Gailey described the store as filling a need for Lake Stevens.

“This will create jobs in our community,” said the mayor. “This will create tax revenue opportunities and reduce the number of grocery leaks that we have as a city and ensure that we buy locally.”

Isabelle Breda: 425-339-3192; [email protected]. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

Chronology

February 2006: A Fred Meyer is proposed for the future Costco site. It ended in Snohomish.

March 2018: Then-mayor John Spencer said Costco may have plans to build in Lake Stevens.

April 2019: Costco applies for its first municipal permits.

July 2019: More than 100 people gather to hear from city officials and Costco representatives who share the foregrounds.

October 2019: Costco requests more municipal permits.

November 2019: Hundreds of people crowd into the Lake Stevens City Council Chamber to voice their opinions on the new store. The testimony extends into the night. Council members decide to continue the hearing later.

December 2019: A large crowd gathers again in the council chamber. After hours of public commentary, the council votes unanimously to approve the Costco development agreement, serving as a contract between Costco and the city. The company still needs several permits.

March 2020: Costco asks the US Army Corps of Engineers to fill in the wetlands at the proposed site.

April 2020: Lake Stevens approves three of the company’s permits. A few weeks later, Livable Lake Stevens appealed these approvals.

November 2020: City Hearing Examiner dismisses Livable Lake Stevens’ appeals.

December 2020: Livable Lake Stevens files a complaint under the Land Use Petition Act.

January 2021: A Snohomish County Superior Court judge dismisses the Land Use Petition Act case. Costco has its municipal permits and is awaiting a decision from the US Army Corps of Engineers to fill in the wetlands.

April 2021: The filling of wet areas is permitted.

June 2021: Lake Stevens City Council adopts a buy-sell contract for the remaining plots for Costco. Kicks later in the month.

July 2021: Contractors clearcut the 40-acre property.

September 2021: Construction is underway on Costco Road. Everett’s water lines need to be relocated to accommodate it.

October 2021: Livable Lake Stevens alleges violations of the Clean Water Act by the Army Corps of Engineers and takes legal action in federal court.

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