OPEN LETTER TO COUNTY EXECUTIVE LEGGETT - PART I
A number of my neighbors have written to you expressing their concerns about Costco's proposal to open a mega gas station in Westfield Wheaton Mall. They have received responses from you that are formulaic, contain factual errors, and simply ignore the concerns that the citizens are expressing. To clarify the dialogue that is NOT taking place (because you chose to evade it) please consider the following:
Essentially all my neighbors who contacted you expressed concerns about the impact of the gas station. Not Costco's Warehouse store. Most people in our neighborhood are quite happy that Costco will soon be opening its store. In fact many of them would have actually welcomed a Costco gas station, if Costco and Westfield had been willing to work with you and other County Agencies to find a more appropriate site for the gas station. What we are objecting to is the placement of the gas station in a site that is grossly inappropriate and will result in unacceptable risks to health and quality of life for the residents of our neighborhood. While you devote most of your letter(s) to discussing the merits of the store, you insult the many citizens who are concerned about the proposed gas station by "responding" to their real concerns only at the very end of your letter(s) and in an extremely disingenuous manner.
In the final portion of your response(s) you state: "I appreciate the health implications you raise in your letter. I understand there are concerns about the gas station location. There will be a full airing of questions such as traffic, the environment, and the like before the Board of Appeals, which will allow the community input into this particular part of the project. I urge you to make your views known before the Board."
You must surely be aware of the widespread perception that your office has been the primary driving force in bringing Costco to Wheaton and has worked to jam the gas station down the throats of the community via a series of covert, but quite obvious mechanisms (like asking the County Council to approve a site specfic ZTA so that Costco would not have to apply for a Special Exception as does any other gas station seeking to open for business in Montgomery County). Surely you are aware of the asymmetric nature of the process by which citizens groups with limited time and resources are forced to counter Costco's troops in the battles before the Planning Board and the Board of Appeals. You have not said one word in support of the concerns of the citizens who elected you and expected that you would be at least as concerned about their well being as you are about the bottom line of the County and the two large corporations who have no concern for the adverse impacts on our neighborhood.
If you really wish citizens to believe that you "thank us for taking the time to share our concerns", perhaps you ought to respond to those concerns, rather than throwing up a smoke screen of irrelevant assertions, most of which you have not even made any meaningful attempt to substantiate with facts. I will address the smoke screen components in part 2 of my letter to you.
Mark R. Adelman