Costco plans could prompt city investment in Pleasant View traffic calming

By Martin Kidston

The proposed development of a new Costco store on West Broadway may soon include a condition binding the city to take efforts to mitigate traffic impacts feared by some residents of the Pleasant View neighborhood.

The City Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee on Wednesday directed city staff to explore the issue, one that would be tied to the larger development agreement for Costco.

The wholesaler is looking to build a new superstore at Mary Jane Boulevard and West Broadway, and it’s asking the city to annex the property. As part of the move, the city is requiring Costco to extend Mary Jane Boulevard south to Camden Street, which has become a source of controversy.

In an effort to appease residents who fear increased traffic once the extension is made, Ward 2 council member Jordan Hess directed the city to explore a further condition that binds the city to future traffic calming projects on Mary Jane Boulevard, between Camden and England Boulevard.

“I’d like to see a proposal where the city holds in abeyance and directs all impact fees paid by Costco to safety improvements within the collectors in that neighborhood,” said Hess. “I’d like to mitigate any impacts that would be caused by the development in that neighborhood.”

The district west of Reserve Street is growing rapidly and future development is on the way. The grid of collector streets, which currently sit in various stages of completion, were envisioned in transportation plans dating back to the 1990s.

City Engineer Kevin Slovarp said as the area grows, developers will be required to extend Mary Jane Boulevard south to Flynn Lane as a condition of subdivision approval.

“Existing property owners in Pleasant View or Hellgate Meadows will not have to pay for those road improvements or those road extensions,” said Slovarp. “It’ll be a condition of development for those vacant properties right now.”

But Costco is not developing one of the vacant lots across which Mary Jane would extend. It remains opposed to the city’s condition that it extends the boulevard across a separate, vacant property.

“You’re talking about putting in other streets in other parts of this neighborhood once it develops, and we’re being asked to put in a street that’s not being developed at this time,” said Costco representative Dave Rodgers. “It would be our preference and recommendation that Mary Jane would go in when a developer comes in to access that property and build it out.”

Several city council members believe Costco should still be responsible for the extension, regardless of whether or not it’s part of the wholesaler’s development.

“Costco is huge and has way more traffic than anything else we’ll see at that location,” said Ward 3 council member Emily Bentley. “When that farm south of Costco develops, Costco should still be on the hook for doing the traffic calming, because your use is so unique and has so many cars and is so auto reliant.”

The city has not yet granted Costco’s annexation request, and a vote on the development agreement may still be weeks away. As part of the agreement, the city will look at the cost of traffic control measures on Mary Jane, including signal device at England Boulevard.

“The hard part is the initial step of creating the capital improvement project and identifying the funding sources to pay for those improvements and getting that into our schedule,” said Slovarp.

The committee voted unanimously to direct the city to explore the possibility.

“It’s time to come up with some creative solutions to how we address traffic concerns in that neighborhood and still take advantage of the road network that has been envisioned and that would ultimately provide a level of service to folks in that neighborhood and the region as it develops,” said Ward 4 council member John DiBari.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com