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.”