ST. CLOUD -- A plan to bring a Costco to St. Cloud has cleared its final hurdle.  The St. Cloud City Council voted 5-1 Monday to sell 18 acres of land at Heritage Park to a developer that intends to build the big box retailer.  The total size of the park is 92 acres. George Hontos voted against it, and Jeff Johnson was not at the meeting.

The city will receive just over $3.5 million for the sale of the land.  The money from the land sale is being used to buy an additional 49 acres at George Friedrich Park and Talahi Woods, both in southeast St. Cloud.  The cost for the city to buy the additional land from MnSCU and the SCSU Foundation is $855,000.  Part of the money will also be used to make upgrades and improves at several other city parks, make roadway improvements in the area of the new Costco store, clear the site, and relocate the skate park.

The development team is responsible for various site improvements, including replacing existing sections of Heritage Park drive, as well as expanding the Stearns History Museum parking lot.  That will cost them about $1 million.

St. Cloud Economic Development Director Cathy Mehelich says Costco officials say the employment projections for a store of this size are about 263 employees, with about 55 percent of them being full time and 45 percent of them being part-time. She says Costco's average wage for their U.S. employees is $23.85 an hour, or about $49,608 a year for their full-time employees.

City Council member John Libert says he's supporting the project because he can't turn down an additional 260 new well-paying jobs. And, he's hoping Costco will raise the bar for salaries at other companies as well.

The retailer is expected to generate about $200,000 in annual sales tax and $400,000 in annual property tax. However, City Council member George Hontos questioned how much of decline in sales other similar businesses might see, due to shoppers going to Costco instead of other existing stores.

Hontos says, while he's not opposed to Costco, he's disappointed there wasn't a Request for Proposals for the site so local developers could have a chance to bid on the land.

City Council member Jeff Goerger says he's in favor of the project because it's good for the city and the people of St. Cloud, calling the benefits of the additional parkland "overwhelming".

City staff began the process of trying to sell the land back in 2015 as part of its Comprehensive Plan.

map courtesy of the city of St. Cloud
map courtesy of the city of St. Cloud