Despite Setback, Costco Persists With Gas Station Support Efforts
With the special exception process put on hold, Costco is asking its members to contact the Montgomery County Council to show support for the proposed gas station.
Costco is now using the email addresses of its members to appeal for their help in convincing the Montgomery County Council not to pass legislation that would block Costco's business interests in Wheaton.
In early May, Costco sent letters to its store members in Montgomery County (and reportedly as far afield as northwest D.C. and Boyds, Md.), asking for support for the proposed Costco gas station at Westfield Wheaton.
The letter asked members to attend the May 17 Planning Board hearing for Costco's special exception application and to send in a pre-paid postcard expressing their support.
But now that the Montgomery County Board of Appeals has put the brakes on the special exception process, the May 17 date is out the window--and Costco has shifted focus.
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In an email sent to Costco members, the wholesale corporation is now asking supporters to send emails to the Montgomery County Council president, Roger Berliner, to protest a zoning text amendment that, if passed, would block the gas station construction. Emails sent to the president are automatically distributed to other councilmembers.
Costco’s email message (attached as a PDF to this article) includes the following paragraph about Zoning Text Amendment 12-07: “The proposed legislation appears to be designed specifically to keep us from opening our gas station at Wheaton Mall. It singles out operators of high-volume gas stations – without regard to the superior safety record of our gas stations. This proposed legislation may preclude Costco from being able to open a new gas station not just at the Wheaton Mall, but anywhere in Montgomery County.”
The zoning text amendment would prohibit building a large gas station (defined as dispensing more than 3.6 million gallons of fuel per year) within 1,000 feet of "any public or private school, or any park, playground, or hospital, or other public use, or any use categorized as a cultural, entertainment and recreation use.” The councilmembers backing the ZTA joined the Kensington Heights Civic Association in a press conference last week to explain the legislation and challenge Costco's air quality studies.
The public hearing for the ZTA is scheduled for June 19.
One Costco member, who requested that her name not be used, received both the “snail mail” letter and the electronic follow-up.
“I just got this email from Costco - which as a Costco member I think is a totally inappropriate use of my email address,” she wrote. “In my nearly 20 years in Montgomery County I've never been lobbied like this by a commercial enterprise.”
Did you receive one of these emails? What do you think of Costco’s tactics in appealing for support from its members? Tell us in the comments.