The council's qualified but unanimous approval was anaccommodation to legal objections by Costco opponents. The councilwill wait until its Sept. 13 meeting to make a final decision soopponents will have time to present more arguments.

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The unanimous vote came after a rousing game of legalmaneuvering by attorneys representing Costco, an opposition groupand the city.

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Wallace Lien, attorney for Friends for Responsible Progress, hadreportedly tried to delay Wednesday's decision by claiming newevidence had been introduced by Costco for which he needed time torespond. At the council meeting, however, which Lien did notattend, Costco presented a motion asking to remove all of theinformation in question from the record.

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The council approved the motion, making Lien's objection to thenew information "moot." The council then rejected Lien's motion andtentatively approved the project. They're giving a closer look topart of Lien's original argument, however.

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A central part of Lien's original objection was so-called"ex-parte" contact - any communication that represented a one-sidedview of the issue, such as personal conversations and e-mailmessages. Articles and editorials regarding Costco in theDemocrat-Herald were also ex-parte, Lien said, citing a 1993 stateLand Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) case.

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To give Lien and other parties a chance to respond, the counciltentatively approved Costco's plan while also giving opponents anopportunity to speak before the council. They will get that chanceSept. 13 prior to the council's final decision.

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Costco is asking the council for permission to use a modifiedsite plan, previously approved, to build a 148,000-square-footwarehouse store and 16-pump gas station on the former Linn Countyfairgrounds off Pacific Boulevard.

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If final approval is granted Sept. 13, the next step for Costcowill be to finalize its construction plans and apply for a buildingpermit, Frank said after the meeting. Once a building permit isissued construction will start in full force, with a projectedopening of next summer. Appeals to LUBA, however, could delay thatschedule.

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