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Costco Presses Its Case for Gas Station at New Wheaton Store

The Montgomery County Planning Board is scheduled to review Costco's special exception application for the controversial gas station on Feb. 28.

Costco sent out fliers this week inviting community members to attend an open house where it will make its case for a controversial 16-pump gas station at its warehouse store that is yet to open in Wheaton. 

The open house is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Feb. 20 at Newport Mill Middle School, 11311 Newport Mill Road, Kensington. 

Want more news about Costco and the Costco gas station? Sign up for the Wheaton Patch newsletter. 

According to the fliers, the open house will address questions about Costco's special exception application to place a gas station at Westfield Wheaton, in the parking lot between the mall and the Kensington Heights neighborhood. 

The fliers show what Costco says are extreme measures for protecting the community from car fumes and noise, including a large wall and a barrier of trees. (See accompanying PDFs of flier.)

The Stop Costco Gas Coalition, which includes Kensington Heights residents, continues to oppose the gas station plans, citing health and environmental concerns. The coalition has uploaded Costco's special exception filings to its website, along with the group's responses and letters in opposition.

In addition to sending the fliers, Costco emailed its members earlier this week and asked them to support the gas station by sending emails to the Montgomery County Planning Board and staff.

The Planning Board is scheduled to review the special exception application on Feb. 28 and make a recommendation to the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings. 

Costco's application is then scheduled to come before a hearing examiner on March 11, 15, 18, and 22 at 9:30 a.m. in the Stella B. Werner Council Office Building, Second Floor Davidson Memorial Hearing Room, at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The hearing examiner will then submit a recommendation to the Board of Appeals for Montgomery County, which will make the final decision.

The store is set to open April 12.

This isn't Costco's first time through the special exception process; its previous application also encountered resistance. When the Montgomery County Council approved a zoning text amendment in 2012 regarding gas stations, Costco was unable to go through with its original plans for constructing a gas station on the proposed site because of its proximity to a neighborhood pool.

Costco responded by submitting a new application that shifted the gas station site east--away from the pool, but closer to the Stephen Knolls School for special needs students.

For more background on the Costco gas station, read the topics page on Wheaton Patch.

Ktown mom February 08, 2013 at 02:22 PM
I appreciate the drawing of the wall. Too bad it doesn't show where the gas station is planned, where the waiting cars would idle or how incredibly close the gas station would be to Stephen Knolls school whose students are medically fragile, including some on respirators. Costco, please consider those kids, their health, and move that station!
Simon Burke February 08, 2013 at 04:28 PM
That flyer was hilarious. We received it a few nights ago and its so skimpy on details. Not even a map of where the gas station would go. I'd give it A plus for colourful, but C- for content. My favourite is the Kensington Heights resident quote they crowbarred into the pamphlet. Utterly anonymous. They couldn't even find someone to put their name to it. Its as if they just made it up.
Richard Rice February 08, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Ktown mom, having been a special ed student many years ago, now well healed and a productive member of Kensington; I say to Costco either move your gas station away from that area or dump your plans for it. There are lives more precious to consider than your profit margin for a gas station!!!
Webmaster February 08, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Costco's invitation is riddled with lies and deliberate distortions of truth, such as their assertion that there is no basis for concerns about health risk - there are TONS of scientific literature on the health risks due to close-in exposure to exhaust fumes. Costco's claim that its "wall" will protect the community from the fumes is ABSURD. Is the wall to be 20 feet high, 30 feet, or what? How long will it be? And will be be an air-tight barrier? Costco's "magic wall" is simply an attempt to keep Westfield and Costco from seeing the neighbors who will be impacted by a gas station that belongs somewhere else!
Danila Sheveiko February 08, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Costco's flyer would not even indicate the gas station's location... because pictures can't lie! To learn the truth, please check out the graphics uploaded above.
Francis Rienzo February 09, 2013 at 02:51 AM
COSTCO's lack of concern for the health of the children and families of the local neighborhood is appalling. It is especially troubling given the degree to which COSTO goes out of its way to tout its committment to social responsibility. Huh? Perhaps the most troubling thing about all this is that leaders of the Gates Foundation (yes, THAT Gates Foundation - the one "committed to improving the health of people world wide") hold two COSTCO board seats and control a significant amount of COSTCO stock. How can both organizations act in a way so contrary to their values? I am embarrassed for both.
Danila Sheveiko February 09, 2013 at 05:04 AM
So true, Francis... My family shopped at Costco for 15 years and loved it, so this is heartbreak for me. Costco may treat its employees better than the rest of the retail industry peons, but everything else about their stellar image may just be PR propaganda, I am sorry to say. If Costco does not come to its senses on the gas station, I may have to forgo Kirkland cheddar and soppressata from now on.
MJ February 09, 2013 at 08:10 PM
The health claims in Costco's latest flier are exaggerated. Costco says, "The study proved conclusively that there are no associated health, environmental or noise concerns from the siting and location of the Wheaton Costco gas station." How can Costco prove "conclusively" that there is no health risk when 1) the gas station does not yet even exist, 2) they cannot perform specific air quality measurements related to the Wheaton Gas station since it does not yet exist, and 3) they have not performed any analysis of health status in the surrounding neighborhood? Their claims are based on predictive modeling, not actual data. Until they produce actual air quality data from a mega gas station of equal size as the proposed Wheaton Station and produce clinical data from residents that reside within 1000 feet of such a station Costco cannot "prove" anything "conclusively." The study has not been done yet because the proposed Wheaton station would be the first of its kind to be situated this close to residential homes and a school for disabled children, some of whom are on oxygen and respirators. Don't let ours or anyone one else's community be the experiment. If you want to inform yourself of the health risks read the Feb. 8th, 2013: “What Costco Doesn’t Tell You About Health Risks of the Proposed Gas Station” Wheaton Patch post.
Ann Arevalo February 10, 2013 at 12:06 AM
A mega gas station should not be anyone's neighbor. And Costco is certainly not a "good neighbor" as long as it insists on locating its mega gas station so close to homes and a school for special needs children. Costco's only concern is increasing traffic to its store with the lure of "cheaper" gas.
Jim Core February 10, 2013 at 03:39 AM
Costco is basing its claims on regulations that are based on outdated science. There has been enough research done in recent years in the United States and overseas to prove that gas stations this close to neighborhoods are unhealthy. New regulations always follow updated science, and they know that they can’t win based on contemporary research. Their data is flawed anyway which makes their claims laughable even under the current regulatory regime. The monitoring stations they cite are in park-like settings. One site is nine miles away in Rockville and the other is 14 miles away in Beltsville. This is bad science and bad public policy. We are not guinea pigs. This County can do better for its residents
Thomas Paine February 10, 2013 at 04:32 PM
There's probably more scientific evidence to support Costco's position on the absence or insignificance of health risks than there are for your hysterical NIMBY claims. The claims of lack of evidence you use to attack Costco apply equally to your position. No study has been done that supports your NIMBY fears.
Thomas Paine February 10, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Do you use gasoline? Gas stations have to be someplace. Perhaps wheaton mall is itself a health and environmental hazard because of all the vehicle traffic it draws. Maybe the mall should be torn down and turned into a park.
Thomas Paine February 10, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Rockville and Beltsville locations are not legitimate comparisons? Give me a break!
Thomas Paine February 10, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Beltsville Costco - a parklike setting? You are ridiculous!
Thomas Paine February 10, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Ann, A mega gas station should not be anybody's neighbor? Do you own a local gas station and fear the price competition?
wkc torrance February 10, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Actually the monitoring station itself is in a green space. Wheaton not only has a mall with cars going in and out, it also has major county roads, such as Georgie Ave, University Ave, and Viers Mill Road. The traffic at those Costco locations is very heavy. So the addition of the traffic from the trruck-stop like gast station is a major issue. We are talking about the health of kids and families. Comaring existing Costco locations tothe proposed on is to very legitimate. Being negative for negative sake is not helpful.
Jim Core February 10, 2013 at 05:02 PM
@ "Mr. Paine" - I encourage you to READ Costco's filings. They cite data from two air quality monitoring stations. The first is at the Lathrop Environmental Education Center at 5110 Meadowside Ln in Rockville. The other monitoring station is at a research facility at 7501 Muirkirk Rd in Beltsville. The equipment is indeed located in park like settings with reasonable tree coverage. I encourage you to visit both locations. You have an interesting handle - presumably it is a Nom de Plume. It would be helpful for the neighborhood dialogue if individuals properly identified themselves when commenting. Are you in Kensington Heights, Wheaton, Kensington, or Bellevue, WA?
Jim Core February 10, 2013 at 05:04 PM
@ Mr. Paine: Scientists are detecting a link between disease and the pollutants generated by traffic and fueling stations. Public health researchers using emerging mapping and epidemiological techniques are discovering disease patterns in the United States and overseas that correlate directly with exposure to the emissions my neighbors and I will ingest if the station is approved. Despite what the Costco states, there are significant health risks associated with this fueling station. Wedging a mega gas station into an existing residential neighborhood is not good public policy in terms of health, land use, development, and transit. Danish researchers, building on earlier field research in the United States and Canada, found evidence of an association between the incidence of cancer and exposure to auto emissions. We can expect similar emissions from the presence of a mega gas station. “Air Pollution From Traffic and Cancer Incidence: a Danish Cohort Study“ was published in Environmental Health a peer-reviewed journal devoted exclusively to the subject of environmental health. You can find the entire paper by Raaschou-Nielsen et al. in Environmental Health 2011, 10:67 or by clicking here: http://www.ehjournal.net/content/10/1/67.
Thomas Paine February 10, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Exactly! Traffic in the area is already heavy due to the mall. Cosco store is already a reality. How much more traffic, pollution, etc. is a gas station at the location really gonna bring? The impact of the gas station alone I suspect is insignificant, and perhaps at least partially offset by fewer cars filling at other area gas stattions.
Danila Sheveiko February 11, 2013 at 05:40 AM
Dear Thomas, before insulting people, I urge you to verify your understanding of the facts. Jim is talking about the Beltsville air monitoring station that has nothing to do with Costco. It is a research facility located on the edge of a forest. Just check it out on Google Earth and you will see what we are talking about it. In fact, just like Jim said, both air monitoring stations Costco is using are located in park-like settings. Have you been to Wheaton lately? Surely you can see the difference. Costco's air quality modeling experts are able to exploit this bias in their findings, and that is what we are calling attention to.
Danila Sheveiko February 11, 2013 at 05:51 AM
Dear Thomas: Maryland's air quality already ranks 40th in the nation. Air quality in the Washington Metropolitan Area consistently ranks in the worst 25 cities in the nation. I am glad you acknowledge Wheaton's traffic problems, so why do you insist we should make our situation worse with the busiest gas station in Montgomery County? Do you really want us to have the most polluted air in America?
Danila Sheveiko February 11, 2013 at 05:55 AM
Dear Thomas, most of us indeed use gasoline. We are not against Costco gas, but if they want to enter denser urban markets like ours, any stations they build should be sited responsibly. Is that really too much to ask in your book?
Strauchan February 17, 2013 at 04:44 AM
It's ironic that you are so up in arms over a relatively insignificant gas station (150 cars or so at peak ie on the weekends) but you're completely ok raising your children next to a 6,000 car parking lot and unconcerned about the traffic generated by the 500 or so new apartments, the new Dick's or the new Costco.
Strauchan February 17, 2013 at 04:57 AM
Master plans and zoning regs are created specifically for the purpose of defining where uses should be located. Both allow for a gas station at the mall. The mall is the ideal location for this gas station and is the most environmentally friendly location. It is one of the top 3 or 4 destination locations in the county. Doesn't it make sense to put a major gas station dead center where the most cars would be going to anyway? And even better, on a site hidden from street view.
Thomas Paine February 17, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Right on Strauchan! You are a voice of common sense in a wilderness of closed-minded unthinking NIMBY lemmings.
Danila Sheveiko February 21, 2013 at 04:40 AM
Dear Strauchan, where are you getting your numbers about 150 cars at peak on weekends? This is very interesting information which contradicts both Costco and the Stop Costco Gas Coalition estimates... I am sure Patch readers would love to hear your explanation. Thank you in advance.
Strauchan February 21, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Danilla, My mistake. I overstated by 100% as per your own comment. Thank you for the correction. Re: Wheaton Patch Wheaton Costco Gas Station Hearing Scheduled for March. Danila Sheveiko 11:43 am on Friday, December 7, 2012 Dear Commentous, I uploaded some images above that should answer most of your questions. At 12,000,000 gallons in projected annual sales, this will be by far the busiest gas station in Mongtomery County. An average station pumps about 1.5 million, so this will be truly a MEGA operation.. Have you seen around here 75 vehicles idling in queue at any other gas station? Ever? So we're talking 75 cars (at peak times) idling in a 6,000 car parking lot. Is that really a reason to deny the station? I read that the County Council has recommended against the station due to insufficient evidence being presented by Costco regarding health hazards. Personally I support this and appreciate the need for caution and safety. That said, I view the local opponents (especially you) as being totally biased against the station, and I question the legitimacy of the arguments presented by both sides. I have observed your arguments jump all over the map in the desperate attempt to block this station. continued
Strauchan February 21, 2013 at 03:36 PM
By all means, let's make sure Costco implements all of the reasonable safety features that need to be implemented to ensure the safety and health of the surrounding community. But when that point is reached, Costco should be allowed to move forward with the station. The "Not In My Backyard" argument is unreasonable, especially when you willingly chose to locate your backyard next to a 50 year old plus major regional shopping mall with a 6,000 car parking lot that is and has always been zoned to allow gas stations.

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