Each of the three sites Costco is considering in the Jackson area has the traffic counts to support a big-box retailer.
None is perfect, though. The deed to the Jackson site, where Smith-Wills Stadium currently sits,requires the property be transferred to the state should it be used for anything other than recreational purposes.
In a letter dated Aug. 8, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann notified Jackson mayor Tony Yarber that the state would resume ownership of the 313-acre site that includes Smith-Wills should it be rezoned from special use. In the letter, Hosemann cited terms of the deed to the property, executed when the city took ownership of it in the 1970s. The city has asked the Jackson Planning Board to approve the property for commercial use.
“This property currently serves as a park,” Hosemann wrote in the letter. “It is a park for the public, has been developed as a park for the public, and should be maintained as a park for the public.”
“The mayor has said he will always fight for Costco because our citizens deserve it. We’re taking a very adamant posture that we’re doing everything we can for the citizens of Jackson,” said Sheila Byrd, a spokeswoman for Yarber.
The site would also mandate all manner of testing because it rests atop an old landfill.
It would require, for Costco or anything else, a round of environmental assessments, said Sheila Byrd, a spokeswoman for Yarber. Smith-Wills, opened in 1975, is perched atop a landfill that once served the city.
The two Flowood parcels – each within the Lakeland Drive retail corridor -- would dent the wholesaler’s lucrative liquor sales.
In Flowood, residents there voted in 2009 to approve sales of liquor by the glass in restaurants and hotels designated as resort areas. That does not include retailers like grocery stores and a potential Costco, though those businesses can sell beer.
Costco’s liquor sales are a big deal. Washington State privatized its formerly state-run liquor distribution sector in 2012. For the second half of that year, Costco was the second largest liquor retailer in terms of revenue, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
Liquor sales of any type in Rankin County have only started recently. After the Flowood vote, Pearl and Brandon followed suit. Each referendum encountered considerable opposition from each area’s religious community. Supporters said liquor sales by the glass would encourage more fine dining options.
Costco executives did not respond to messages left with company spokespeople Wednesday or Thursday. Flowood mayor Gary Rhoads declined comment when reached Thursday.
A Costco in Jackson could sell liquor.
City officials have submitted to the Jackson Planning Board a request to rezone 50 acres of the site from special to commercial use. The Flowood sites already carry that zoning designation.
The board’s next scheduled meeting is Aug. 27. The Smith-Wills rezoning is on the agenda.
It’s unclear if any future development on the Smith-Wills site would involve tearing down the baseball stadium, Byrd said.
That would put Belhaven University’s baseball program in a bind. The school has played its home games at Smith-Wills since 2006.
“Obviously, I don’t want it to happen,” said coach Hill Denson. “I don’t know what we would do if it did. We’ve got a lot of money sunk in there. But ultimately, we don’t have any control over it.”
Belhaven’s old baseball field on campus has been reworked into a softball field, Denson said. “And we’re pretty limited in what we can do at other locations on campus.”
Belhaven leases the property from the city. Since 2006, Denson said the school raised money to build covered batting cages and maintain the stadium’s turf.