Approximately 75 people attended a Wednesday evening meeting at the where Montgomery County, Westfield and Costco officials provided an update on the development of the Costco project at Westfield mall.
The meeting was required of Westfield in order to receive slated for the Costco project.
Representatives of every part of the development process gave presentations aimed at alleviating the community’s concerns over a variety of issues, including traffic, noise, pollution, aesthetics, pedestrian walkways and the possibility of a diminished quality of life.
Clive Mackenzie, Westfield’s regional vice president, gave an overview of the $60 million development project, explaining that the Costco store would open in early 2013, with a Dick’s Sporting Goods store below and an Elevation Burger nearby. He also stated that the project could generate 250 to 300 construction jobs and 475 new retail jobs.
“We need to constantly reinvent ourselves, and we need to reinvest and revitalize the mall the mall to maintain our vibrancy and vitality,” Mackenzie said.
Other presenters included:
- Rob Rodgers, a project architect, who said that the exterior of the building will consist of powder-coated metal panels, typical for Costco stores. He also explained that the loading dock would be located at the back of the building, a point of contention among neighbors with houses nearby.
- Project landscape engineer Matt Jones, who described a buffer of dense trees on the south and west sides of Ring Road, as well as an underground stormwater management system, to manage flooding.
- Traffic expert Wes Guckert, who estimated that Costco would bring 4,000 to 5,000 cars per day.
- Costco’s Erich Brann, who explained that the store would receive approximately 20 trucks each evening (including 10 semis) that would be unloaded by 10 p.m.
Following the development group’s presentations, community members had their chance to voice their questions and concerns.
Making their presence felt in particular were members of the Kensington Heights Civic Association (KHCA), who came prepared with their own presentations on specific topics.
“We have a strong desire and concern to make sure the planning and things being done as far as the traffic and trucks are concerned are done with a bit of forethought,” Mark Mezsaros said.
Another KHCA member, Danila Sheveiko, asked if they could possibly move the loading dock to another part of the store, somewhere with more distance from their houses. He also expressed displeasure with the proposed size of the building.
“We’re concerned about this huge building looming over our single-family residences,” Sheveiko said.
Although the proposed gas station was not the focus of the meeting, KHCA's Larry Silverman suggested a separate meeting to discuss concerns that the community has about it. Westfield’s vice president of development Jim Agliata agreed to schedule a meeting sometime before the special exception meeting currently scheduled for Feb. 24, 2012.
“The community really wants Costco,” Silverman said. “We like you, despite everything. And Westfield, we wish you all the luck in the world; we’d like to see you prosper. We’re not here to knock you down.”
“We are here, first of all to comply with the law, which is to have an open-minded conversation about all these things. If you don’t like the law, just turn down the money and we wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Silverman added.
At the end of the meeting, Montgomery County’s economic development director Steve Silverman said that the dialogue is expected to continue over the next 30 to 60 days.
And he noted that even if the two parties reach an impasse, that wouldn’t result in Westfield possibly losing any of the $4 million granted to them by the county.
“That is not what the resolution says,” Silverman said. “It says these issues have to be discussed but does not require that the parties reach a settlement.”
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