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Costco Gas Station Opponents Look Beyond County

The Kensington Heights Civic Association shared some of its correspondence with the Maryland Department of the Environment at a news conference Monday.

Frustrated with what they perceive as a non-responsive county government,  opponents of the proposed Costco gas station at are trying to convince state and federal authorities to support their case: That a gas station located so close to a community is a serious public health hazard.

“The county doesn’t want to know,” said Larry Silverman, who teaches environmental law at Johns Hopkins University and has been advising the Kensington Heights Civic Association. “They think the way to win is to keep themselves ignorant.”

has come out against a zoning text amendment that would make it impossible for Costo to site its 16-pump gas station next to the Kensington Heights neighborhood. Silverman says his calls and emails to contacts within the county’s environmental agency have gone unanswered.

Check it out: Wheaton Patch has created a page where you can see all of our Costco gas station coverage in reverse chronological order.

Unable to afford to hire more health experts to examine the particulars of its case, KHCA has been meeting and corresponding with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Angelo Bianca, the deputy director of the Air and Radiation Management Administration in the MDE, wrote a letter last week as a follow-up to a meeting in June about the Costco gas station.

In the letter, Bianca states that although the gasoline station industry has undergone tremendous changes in recent years, there has been no accompanying change in the state regulatory approach. But the risks are real. He adds that because it is difficult to quantify these risks, particularly the cumulative effects of pollution in a specific area, “the more distance that can be placed between a source and residences and community gathering places is certainly beneficial to minimizing risk.”

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But no matter what state and federal authorities say, ultimately the issue lies with local government. If the County Council does not pass ZTA 12-07, Costco’s special exception application will proceed to the Board of Appeals.

Councilmember Marc Elrich, , remains a staunch supporter. At a news conference on Monday, he emphasized the importance of giving greater priority to public health rather than following the correct process when it comes to changing regulations. T as unfairly targeting Costco and usurping the role of the Board of the Appeals.

At last week’s PHED meeting, Councilmember George Leventhal questioned whether a private swim club merited consideration under the ZTA’s proposed language.

“We are the residents of this county,” Kensington Heights resident Mark Meszaros said in response at the Monday news conference. “We’re not some high-end, exclusive club.”

Ktown mom July 17, 2012 at 01:31 PM
in addition to the Kenmont Swim Club and many homes, Steven Knolls School is located with the distance covered in the porposed ZTA. Steven Knolls students are from the southern part of Montgomery County and some have profound and multiple disabilities. How will Montgomery County keep these special students safe from the emissions of all those cars that will line up for Costco gas? Some of these students have respiratory issues! I'll grant that some residents have chosen to live in the nearby neighborhood but those students aren't choosing where their public school is located.
Timothy July 17, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Are you sure that's a fair and accurate summary of what Mr. Elrich said? Did he really say that following the correct process when it comes to changing regulations shold take some kind of "back seat"?
Timothy July 17, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Ktown mom: with respect, I think it was pretty clearly estalished at the recent Council worksession that the school is NOT within the distance covered by the ZTA.
April Gassler July 17, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Even if Stephen Knolls is slightly outside the 1000 foot buffer proposed in the ZTA, if passed, the ZTA would prevent the gas station from being built at the propose site, and would also protect Stephen Knolls students from any alternative location that might be proposed that is within 1000 feet of the school.
MK July 17, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I am not in favor of the gas station for a different reason: I'm concerned about traffic in the already congested area. Combine that issue with both the pollution/safety concerns and the fact that there are already a bazillion gas stations nearby (though none with marked ULSD sadly) and I don't see any need to allow it. I'm not sure how I feel about the last minute legislation though that would affect only one business. That seems inappropriate.
April Gassler July 17, 2012 at 04:19 PM
This isn't really "last minute legislation that would affect only one business." Costco's proposed mega-gas station is the first one in the county that was proposed to be located within 1000 feet of these sensitive land uses -- so it's the first time the issue has come up. It will also affect not only Costco, but any other business that seeks to build a mega-gas station in Montgomery County in the future. So, for example, if you're neighborhood park is within 1000 feet of a Safeway store, it will protect you if Safeway proposes to add a mega-gas station to it's existing store without the need to organize your community and raise money to hire a lawyer and oppose the gas station through the special exception process.
H July 17, 2012 at 05:09 PM
So let me see if I understand your point. Because we "choose to live in the nearby neighborhood", many of us moving here years or even decades before this Costco gas station was proposed, you think we deserve to just deal with the health implications? Wow, that is harsh. The bottom line is if it's a serious health issue (or a potential one that studies haven't yet been able to assess), it shouldn't be here. It doesn't matter if you're a student at Stephen Knolls or a resident who lives in the neighboring community.
Dave July 17, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Do you folks really think there will be hundreds of cars lined up or at the pumps at one time? I would be more worried about the "people" hanging around the plaza.
ED July 17, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Well said, April.
Danila Sheveiko July 17, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Dave, if you have never been to a Costco gas station, please check out the uploaded images above. Long lines of idling vehicles are a normal site at Costco gas stations. This will be by far the busiest fueling operation in the entire County, with up to six (6) tanker truck refuels daily.
Timothy July 17, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Did everybody notice how quickly we went from "the school is inside the limit" to "it doesn't really matter if the school is inside the limit"? The ONLY obstacle imposed bythe ZTA would be based on the Swim Club. The school is outside the limit and the ZTA doesn't apply to the houses at all. Let's be clear about the facts, please.
MocoLoco July 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
MK--I believe that all diesel is now ULSD. Not sure it has to be marked as such, given that there's no alternative. (unless you're filling up your locomotive.) Signed, Mocolotive
MocoLoco July 18, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Who said "hundreds of cars"?
Kathleen Michels July 21, 2012 at 04:03 AM
As the state MDE notes- The main problem here is that regulations have not caught up with a growing body of research and monster business plans. The research on the risks of exposure to the particulates in car exhaust for damage to brain, heart, lungs , blood vessels is piling up. the state MDE said among other things “the more distance that can be placed between a source and residences and community gathering places is certainly beneficial to minimizing risk.” Because no business has proposed to site a mega gas station close to a residential community before, as the state MDE notes,there are no relevant regulations although clearly there need to be. It is a loophole Costco is planning on driving many fueling trucks through, while people suffer. And when the loophole is closed Costco will be grandfathered in and contine to pollute the air and health of children and adults

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