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Costco site being challenged in court

The saga of Costco Wholesale's relocation from Crater Lake Highway in Medford to southeast Central Point has taken another turn.

Land-use planner Calvin Martin of Jacksonville and retired Ashland lawyer Mark Haneberg are appealing Central Point City Council's approval of Costco's conditional use permit application to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Last September, the state Land Use Board of Appeals affirmed Central Point's March approval of Costco Wholesale's conditional use permit application to build a new store and fueling station off Table Rock Road. But Martin and Haneberg believe they had a viable argument to overturn LUBA's decision.

"We lost at LUBA because they were only able to look at comments in opposition made during the planning commission and City Council process," Martin said. "The appeals court can look through a broader scope."

In February, the city's Planning Commission approved Costco's application for a conditional use permit, allowing the construction of a 161,992-square-foot warehouse and gas station on 18.28 acres at the southwest corner of Hamrick and Table Rock roads. Martin and Medford lawyer David Smith filed separate appeals that were denied by the City Council.

It's Martin's position that the ordinance the city has used to approve Costco developing the property mistakenly allows warehouse department stores in an area zoned for industrial use.

He points out that the state requires city comprehensive and transportation plans to be done through a legislative process, and Central Point made a change quasi-judicially. Such a method is prohibited by Oregon Revised Statutes, he says.

Central Point Development Director Tom Humphrey said Costco has taken the lead in responding to the appeal.

Portland law firm Tonkon Torp is representing the Issaquah, Washington-based retailer. A telephone message at the firm said the office was closed Thursday because of weather conditions.

Humphrey said the appellate court has the option of affirming LUBA, without opinion, or taking oral testimony and rendering a decision next spring.

"It could also happen by the end of the month," Humphrey said. "People are frustrated, but not discouraged. Costco is committed to this location. It's the best of all the ones they've looked at."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31

Costco's efforts to relocate to Central Point are being challenged in the Oregon Court of Appeals. AP file photo