Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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No rush for Costco

Perrysburg shouldn’t approve a major retail project until questions about a gas pipeline are resolved

Perrysburg officials appear ready to approve construction of a large Costco store and gas station at the intersection of State Rt. 25 and Eckel Junction Road, near I-475 and the Levis Commons shopping mall. They have scheduled a public hearing on the proposal tonight, in advance of likely votes this month by the city council and planning commission.

But questions remain about the discount retailer’s plan to relocate a natural-gas pipeline beneath the proposed store site. Until they are resolved, the city should not wave the project through.

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The gas pipeline — 4 feet deep, 1,100 feet long, and 20 inches in diameter — runs diagonally under the property. Costco has sensibly backed away from its original proposal to build a parking lot over the pipeline, which would have impeded monitoring and repairs.

Costco now wants to pay to reroute the pipeline around the proposed parking area, increasing the line’s length by about 300 feet. But its talks with the pipeline’s owner, Columbia Gas Transmissions, have not yielded an agreement. Even if one is reached, the current pipeline would remain in use for two years or so.

The prospect of a pipeline rupture — or worse, a fire or explosion — might seem too unlikely and disastrous to contemplate, but cannot be ignored. Until Costco and Columbia Gas reach an agreement that ensures public safety, approval of the project would seem premature.

Perrysburg residents and business owners also raise concerns about the amount of vehicular traffic the new store will generate. Projections suggest the store will increase by more than 12 percent the number of cars and trucks that pass through the already busy intersection on a typical day.

Costco says it will contribute to a widening by the city of the intersection. But critics still predict traffic backups on northbound Route 25, Eckel Junction, and the I-475 exit ramp during the evening rush hour once the store opens.

The availability of effective public transportation would help mitigate these effects, while enabling shoppers from other communities to reach the Costco store more easily. But Perrysburg voters and officials made clear when they quit the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority in 2012 that mass transit was not a city priority. So the complaints about traffic congestion ring a bit hollow now.

Other Perrysburg residents worry about the effect on their property values of such a large (more than 150,000 square foot) store near their homes. Although city officials have largely dismissed such concerns, they deserve to be heard.

Perrysburg officials assert that Costco’s proposed investment justifies accommodating its preferences. Still, the jobs and tax revenue that the store would create need to be weighed against its less appealing effects.

Costco has a good corporate reputation, and the store can become a useful addition to retail choices in Perrysburg and the rest of northwest Ohio. But the project must be done correctly; that will require the city council and planning commission to act as more than rubber stamps or cheerleaders.

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