Resident pumps up Costco gas lawsuit

The city will head to court this winter after a resident sued regarding the approval of 12 new gas pumps at the Costco store on Middlefield Road.

Costco’s expansion plan — which includes building a new 160,000-square-foot warehouse on the property, demolishing the existing 24-year-old Costco store and adding 12 gas pumps — won approval from the Planning Commission this summer.

The City Council denied an appeal filed by neighbors in August, who opposed the introduction of a fuel station to the busy shopping center.

Resident James Rockwell filed his lawsuit Sept. 13 against Redwood City and Costco, specifically regarding the approval of the gas pumps, said his attorney, Roger Kubein. Both sides failed to reach a settlement agreement during a conference Oct. 8, and the case heads to trial Jan. 18, City Attorney Stan Yamamoto said.

“We’re seeing a judicial review of the approval,” Kubein said. “We think that some of the information that was plugged into the traffic studies may have been underreported.

“We have no problem with them wanting to expand — this is all about the gas station.”

Like other neighbors, Rockwell is worried that bringing a gas station to already crowded Middlefield Road will make traffic intolerable, Kubein said. Zoning Administrator Blake Lyon reduced Costco’s original gas-station proposal from 16 pumps to 12 in response to those concerns.

If Costco had added 16 pumps to the site, it could have sold upward of 750,000 gallons of gas per month,according to Redwood City Planning Manager Jill Ekas. Estimates for the 12-pump alternative have not been made available.

Attorneys for Costco did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Yamamoto would not disclose the city’s settlement offer to Rockwell, but said most cases that challenge projects like Costco’s under the California Environmental Quality Act wind up in court.

“The problem is, if you agree under a settlement to redo the process, then someone else can bring a suit against you,” Yamamoto said. “We’ve got a trial date coming, and that way we’ll know quickly whether we did anything improper.”

Redwood City faced legal threats in 2003 after the city acquired several downtown businesses through eminent domain and paid a $3 million settlement to those business owners. Residents challenged another development decision — the approval of the Marina Shores Village project, in 2004 — and defeated it in a referendum.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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