All nine Montgomery County council members voted Tuesday afternoon to establish a 300-foot buffer between large gas stations in the county and community spaces such as parks, schools and pools.
But the vote left unclear what was on everyone's minds: whether Costco would be able to build its proposed gas station at Westfield Wheaton.
Councilmember Marc Elrich, the lead sponsor of Zoning Text Amendment 12-07, made a key last-minute change to the bill, reducing the buffer zone from 1,000 feet to 300 feet, in order to gain the necessary votes for passage.
"They would have beat me yesterday, 5-4," Elrich said afterward.
The ZTA applies to gas stations that dispense more than 3.6 million gallons per year. Costco, which has been at the center of the controversy surrounding ZTA 12-07, has plans to build a gas station at Westfield Wheaton that is projected to dispense 12 million gallons per year.
All gas stations in Montgomery County must go through a special exception process.
It is not clear whether Costco's proposed gas station is located within this 300-foot buffer zone from the Kenmont Swim & Tennis Club in Kensington Heights, because the 300 feet will be measured from the edge of the special exception zone, whereas the original 1,000-foot buffer would have been measured in a direct line from the gas pumps.
Costco representatives say they plan to measure the new distance and re-submit their special exception packet.
Costco's special exception process came to a halt after ZTA 12-07 was introduced in April, and the county's Board of Appeals decided to await the outcome of the council vote.
Check it out: Wheaton Patch has created a page where you can see all our Costco gas station coverage in reverse chronological order.