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Local

Wholesale powerhouse inching closer to Morris expansion, officials say

Costco and Morris working on annexation

MORRIS – During an April 2014 meeting, Mayor Richard Kopczick said Costco wanted to begin construction on a meat-packing plant in Morris by the end of the coming May.

Fourteen months later, a shovel hasn’t touched dirt and Costco’s target date for opening the plant is July 2016.

“There’s a lot at stake for everyone involved,” Kopczick said. “The jobs and tax base would be great for the city and county.”

Morris is fine-tuning a proposed annexation agreement with Costco to bring into city limits 139.3 acres of farmland just west of the company’s two distribution centers at 3800 N. Division St.

Last month, the Morris Development Review Committee approved a revised property plan from Costco for a 362,192-square-foot building that will host the packaging of hamburger, sausage and hot dogs on 50 acres of the southern portion of the property.

The plan had several changes from the 2014 plan that wouldn’t be obvious to the untrained eye.

Costco has one meat-packing plant in California, and Kopczick said with Costco’s continuing growth, this proposed facility would allow the wholesale company to split transportation of its meat products across the country in two halves.

But to meet the revised target date, all necessary plan approvals at the local, state and federal levels will need to happen by September, Kopczick said.

Sanitation

Perhaps the biggest bump in the road has been perfecting the water and sewer arrangement.

Bringing the land into city limits allows Costco to connect to Morris water and sewer lines, for which Costco will pay.

“We don’t want to redo things afterward,” Morris Building and Zoning Officer Bill Cheshareck said. “We have to make sure the water and sewer are correct to accommodate this growth and any more future growth.”

The proposed site will use at least 200,000 gallons of water a day, which needs to be pretreated before dispersing into the city’s system. 

A study is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kopczick said, to discover how much sewer discharge levels would affect the Illinois River.

“Our engineers worked with Costco’s to get the levels right,” Kopczick said.

The city also was concerned the plant would clog its pipes and treatment facility with oils, fats and grease, Cheshareck said, so Costco agreed to build its own lift station on-site.

Other plant requirements and features

The Federal Aviation Administration would need to approve the construction project because of its proximity to Morris Municipal Airport and because a large part of Morris is in a federal airway, City Attorney Scott Belt said.

The FAA needs to come to a determination of no hazard to air navigation. This was approved on the 2014 plan, but the revised plan will need to be approved too, Belt said.

A bioretention basin at the southern portion of the proposed site would not only have a retention pond, but an array of plants that help siphon oil and other pollutants from storm water runoff, Kopczick said, keeping local waterways clean.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture would need to approve the plan and determine there would be no risk to airplanes because of a possible increase in nearby waterfowl.

Morris is requiring a bike path between Lisbon Road and an 8-foot tall fence that sits above a grassy berm around the property, similar to the design of the existing property bordering Route 47.

Navigation

All industrial traffic will use Route 47 to enter and exit the plant, just as it does now.

A county roadway, Lisbon Road borders the west side of the prospective property. An employee parking lot would be on the west side of the plant. Because of the increased traffic, road improvements and access points must be made.

As with any developer that comes into Morris, Costco will reimburse the roadwork costs. An agreement would be reached with the county because it’s a county roadway and will remain one, Belt said.

Grundy County Engineer Craig Cassem said the portion of Lisbon bordering the site would be an 80,000-pound asphalt roadway.

The site plan shows a full access entrance to the employee parking lot at the south end, and an exit only at the north end.

The full access entrance would likely require a right turn lane going north and a left turn lane going south, Cassem said.

Costco semis will never touch Lisbon Road unless they get lost.

Economic boost

Plant construction would trigger a four-year, 50 percent tax abatement agreement, Grundy Economic Development Committee CEO Nancy Norton Ammer said. 

These types of agreements are struck when the amount invested by the developer – in this case $110 million or more – and jobs provided – at least 85 – are significant enough.

Costco’s payments would begin after a tax assessment of the area. Costco would pay 100 percent of the tax assessment in the fifth year.

Nine taxing bodies would benefit from the project, Ammer said, but it is too early to estimate the assessed value or what each taxing body would receive. It’s difficult to estimate, Ammer said, because of the lack of meat-packing plants in the county.

A tax assessment wouldn’t take place until the building is constructed, Ammer said.

Costco representatives declined to comment, saying the company does not discuss proposed locations until construction begins.

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