How is the COSTCO project an incompatible land use violation of the Ridgeland Master Plan?

The Ridgeland Area Master Plan (RAMP) was specifically intended to create a framework and guide for Ridgeland’s future growth, and to ensure that the city evolved with an eye toward the long-term economic health of our community. This is a holistic plan developed with the knowledge that the health of each ward of our city impacts and influences the rest of Ridgeland. Our committee’s desire in 2008 was, and our City’s continuing goal today, should be to encourage the path of growth strategically, and not to the detriment of our city’s future health.

Two important reasons why the proposed Costco development (or another big-box retail-dominated development like it) is contrary to the city-adopted Ridgeland Area Master Plan in this proposed location:

Future Center of Ridgeland – As Ridgeland expands to the west; this proposed Costco location will increasingly be the center of our city and must be developed with consideration to the community’s future. Retail development that is sensitively designed and integrated thoughtfully into the framework of the community would be critical here. A big-box retail anchored strip center (dominated by a Costco or similar anchor) is not in accord with this perspective.

Additionally, the proposed Lake Harbor Drive extension, which will soon bridge east and west Ridgeland over the interstate to Highland Colony Parkway, will create powerful ripples and areas nearby must be planned carefully.

Historical and Cultural Importance – This property is adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Choctaw Agency site, Historic Old Agency Road, schools, churches, and neighborhoods. Because of the historical and cultural context around the site, it demands sensitive development. Critical development sites like this set the tone for the areas around them – and the development of a big-box anchored retail center, with its associated parking requirements, traffic impact, and aesthetic consequences, will set the wrong precedent for the long term future of this area.

Will the city lose sales tax revenue to the project developers?

The City of Ridgeland will receive ZERO sales tax revenue from this project at this location until the developer is paid the $29.6 million of taxpayer money or for 15 years, whichever comes first. During this time, the city will provide its services to COSTCO at the expense of city property owners. The cost of providing COSTCO with city services — road maintenance, police, fire, etc. — can exceed the local tax revenue (that we aren’t getting anyway, anytime soon), resulting in a net loss to taxpayers.

Who stands to gain the most from the COSTCO project?

The developer has applied for the Tourism Sales Tax Incentive Program with the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). According to the Mississippi Department of Revenue, 80% of the sales tax is diverted to the MDA. The developer will receive 30% of the capital expense, ($29.6 million) back from MDA. The other 20% of the sales tax goes into the general fund of the State of Mississippi.

How will this impact traffic in the area?

COSTCO will bring automobile congestion, crowds, and crime to the Highland Colony proposed area. At some point, when it can no longer handle increased traffic, the roundabout will have to be destroyed and replaced with a traffic light. A traffic study is underway but is still in the “preliminary phases,” according to Jonathan Kiser. Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee has previously stated 18-wheelers will not be allowed to use the roundabout located at Highland Colony Parkway and Old Agency. COSTCO representatives said the store’s “receiving hours” are typically from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. with an expected 10-12 truckloads a day, up to four of those being 18-wheelers.  Road damage is likely due to 80,000 lb. trucks exceeding the 60,000 lb. weight limit.

How and when did the C-2 Zoning change?

On June 2, 2015, an under-the-radar zoning meeting was held changing “the definition” of C-2 zoning to accommodate COSTCO, at that point a publically non-identified retailer. These exceptions to the area C-2 zoning were made to allow for a big box retailer with gasoline pump sales, fast food establishments, and other establishments not in keeping with the Ridgeland Master Plan. Other areas of Ridgeland now have the potential to be affected the same way under these new exceptions.

Replace the Section 21 “Service Station” definition with the following language: 

Service Station: Any area of land, including the structure thereon, which is used primarily for the retail sale of gasoline, diesel fuel, ethanol, oil, propane, other fuels, and/or the sale or installation of automobile accessories and may also include incidental services such as facilities for lubricating, washing (either automatic or by hand), and cleaning, or otherwise servicing automobiles and light trucks. This term does not include the painting or major repair of vehicles. 

Add to Section 21 definitions the following definition: Large Master Planned Commercial Development:

Any large commercial development consisting of a group of one (1) or more contiguous separately owned or ground leased tracts or parcels that contain, among the group of tracts or parcels, at least one building for occupancy for retail/wholesale purposes exceeding 100,000 square feet of heated and cooled space for the indoor display and sale of goods, a site with a minimum of 15 contiguous acres, access to an Arterial Street, and approved by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen which may or may not include conditions. Large Master Planned Commercial Developments may include any of the uses permitted in the underlying Zoning District as well as Service Stations; Banks, branch banks, drive-thru ATM’s, and other banking facilities; Food product and carry-out and delivery stores, laundry and dry cleaning pickup stations; Fast Food Restaurant with drive-thru; Fast Casual Restaurant with drive-thru; Pharmacy with a drive-thru; and outdoor display of goods in designated areas approved by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen in one (1) or more locations not exceeding an aggregate of 15,000 square feet. 

This leads to the question: “Does Mayor Gene McGee have the best interests of Ridgeland taxpaying residents in mind or those of the non-resident developers of the project?”

Can we expect a loss of local businesses?

Ridgeland was once guided by a master plan that frowned on development outside of town centers, favored projects protecting the area’s character, expanded local ownership, and enabled surrounding communities to meet their own needs rather than relying on imports. Case in point: During the County Line Road development phase, the area was zoned C-2 with exceptions. Seeing the change on County Line over the last few years speaks for itself. Several shopping destination centers along County Line Road are vacant or nearly vacant at this time.

How will COSTCO affect the safety of our residents and visitors to the area?

There is rational concern about the future safety for users of the bike and walking trails crossing Highland Colony Parkway and the Roundabout area, as well as the safety of school children in the area. With big box retail operations it has been shown that crime increases in the area. The developer said phase III would mirror phases I and II and that they (and COSTCO) would do everything they could to guarantee safety in the area. It was conceded, however, that there is no “guarantee” on safety.

Is Ridgeland a good location for a COSTCO?

The nearest COSTCO is approximately 3-3 ½ hours from the Jackson metro area. A store centrally located in metro Jackson would draw consumers from as far as a 1½-hour driving radius. This includes Monroe and Vicksburg to our west; Hattiesburg to our south; Meridian and Laurel to our east and Grenada to our north. Also, the Jackson metro area has a greater concentration of potential consumers than anywhere else in the metro area.

Ridgeland is definitely the best location for a COSTCO in the state, based on the demographic details the retailer has shared. Their target households have an average annual income of $92,000. According to this research, the bulk of these households are located in four target areas: Fondren/Belhaven, Northeast Jackson, Madison/Ridgeland, and Dogwood/Rankin County.

Based on that information alone, Ridgeland is the most logical choice because of its central location to all target areas. The city has undeveloped land masses and access to both I-55 and the I-220 loop, either of which would be tremendously convenient to both the metro customers as well as those customers traveling within that 1 ½ hour radius.

Why is COSTCO focusing on this location only?

It defies logic to locate here when one considers the close proximity to the Natchez Trace prohibiting a proper exit, three left turns required to get to the property in question when coming from the south, which is from where most shoppers will come; the unique roundabout and the millions of federal dollars in bike trails; and 2500+ petitioned signatures as well as droves of Ridgeland citizens showing up at town hall meetings in opposition. This is DEFINITELY NOT the best location in Ridgeland.

This is not the only location available to COSTCO, but it is the only one with a $29.6 million return to the developers who are pushing for it. If the city leaders had not seen fit to abandon the Master Plan and the 2014 zoning ordinance, this improper location would not even be a contender.

Why should Ridgeland residents on the east side of I-55 be concerned about this issue?

The sales tax that will be forfeited will affect the ENTIRE city because we will all be paying for additional city services (police, road maintenance and repairs, etc) without the additional income from sales taxes. This could very easily lead to an increase in property taxes—all over the city.

The new C-2 zoning exceptions affect everything zoned C-2 anywhere in the city, which means that any one could wind up with a big box store their back yard; north, south, east, or west Ridgeland.