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Leggett Defends Costco Gas Station

In a memo to the Montgomery County Council, the county executive expressed his opposition to Zoning Text Amendment 12-07.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is siding with Costco in a zoning debate over whether the discount store should be permitted to place a gas station at Westfield Wheaton.

In a memo last week to county councilmembers, Leggett said that he opposes Zoning Text Amendment 12-07, which would restrict where "mega" gas stations could be built in the county. If the ZTA passes the County Council, Costco would not be permitted to build its proposed gas station.

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The ZTA would prohibit gas stations that dispense more than 3.6 million gallons from sites within 1,000 feet of "any public or private school, or any park, playground, or hospital, or other public use, or any use categorized as a cultural, entertainment and recreation use.”

Leggett specifically mentions the proposed Costco gas station as the "only gas station impacted by ZTA 12-07," adding his voice to for unfairly targeting one specific business.

"I am concerned that this sequence of events may send a message to the retail market that the county is an uncertain place to do business," Leggett wrote in the memo.

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

Malcolm Wilson July 10, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Mr. Legett, are you kidding? You gave them 4 million dollars. I don't think they are going to leave. And what business would think MoCo is an "uncertain place" when you hand out cash and tax breaks like candy on Halloween? How about telling us where your kids go to school, where your community pool is and lets talk about your back yard. This "sequence of events" is often referred to as democracy. I understand after overturning the referendum on the Ambulance Fee that you may have a difficult time with this concept...
Bill Samuel July 10, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Ike Leggett consistently sides with corporate interests rather than the public interest. He has chosen to be a stooge of the power elite. He sounded good when he first ran, but he was not what he claimed to be. Unfortunately he was not challenged in the Democratic primary, which is the real election, for re-election despite his despicable performance. We need to get rid of him as soon as possible. It is a scandal that he gets away with taking the taxes of ordinary citizens and giving them to huge corporations. There must be a special place in hell for reverse Robin Hood types like him.
Commentous July 10, 2012 at 03:29 PM
With respect to Ms. French, who I believe has done a very good job of putting information here on the Patch, I think the headline in this article is a misstatement of the Executive's letter. He does not defend the gas station; he opposes a regulation specifically designed to take the decision out of the Special Exception process that includes public hearings. There is not a stance--at least an overt one--on whether the station should be approved; there is a stance on whether one-business regulations should be passed. As for the station, I am not for it, but I am adamantly against regulations being passed in order to circumvent public hearings under processes that could just as easily result in the denial of a gas station.
Commentous July 10, 2012 at 03:32 PM
On a side note, the Council and the Executive seem to be at great odds regularly, and the citizens around Wheaton-Kensington would be better served if the two branches of government would try to work together. The citizens of Wheaton who were truly involved in the redevelopment process got little to nothing of the proposed redevelopment they had woked for when the Council decided 9-0 that they had a better plan that served almost none of the goals identified by the citizens. Even if some Council members felt the citizens/Executive's/developer's plan was not best, the Council could have communicated with the community. Also, I would not have expected a 9-0 vote from a Council that never said a peep about any concerns during the process and never invited public opinion on the newly-hatched plan. We, the citizens of Wheaton, were disregarded. I now wonder whether this decision was as much a slap at the Executive as a decision on how to help Wheaton prosper. Perhaps the Executive in this instance is trying to exert some of his power and could really care less about an effort to pass a one-business regulation. If that's the case and decisions are continuously being made by both sides to show the other branch that they don't have all the power, our County has more problems than most people will ever realize.
Danila Sheveiko July 10, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Dear Commentous, Point 1: Please remember that the County Executive originally lobbied Zoning Text Amendment 10-04 that would have allowed the Westfield Wheaton Costco gas station to completely bypass the Special Exception process and community input entirely. While the pretext of ZTA 10-04 was to allow gas stations in regional malls by right, there are only three such malls in the County - one is in the City of Gaithersburg, where ZTA 10-04 would not apply, and the other two are owned by Westfield Group! Since Westfield Mongtomery Mall already has two regular gas stations, ZTA 10-04 could have only applied to the proposed Costco mega gas station for Westfield Wheaton. The practice of changing the zoning law to benefit one site and one corporation has a name - spot zoning - an often-abused legislative tactic that is illegal in some jurdisdictions and frowned upon in others.
Danila Sheveiko July 10, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Dear Commentous: Point 2: Unlike the ZTA lobbied by the County Executive, ZTA 12-07 is clearly not spot zoning, even though the Costco gas station would indeed be affected. Mega gas stations are ten times the size of an average station and are a new trend in the retail fueling industry. The County's gas station siting regulations were written in 1953 and simply did not address these types of operations. Costco was the first major retailer to get into discount gasoline sales to draw more customers to their warehouses in late 1990s. Since then, other major corporate retailers like Wal-Mart, BJ's, Sam's Club, Safeway, Giant, and others to enter the gasoline market. Costco has about 350 stations now. In about fifteen years, mega gas station share of the market went from 0 to 12% and climbing steadily. This is clearly a trend that needs to be address by the Council - the County's zoning authority charged to protect the health and well-being of residents. Bottom line: the process is above board, the County Executive's position is clear, and your criticism, however polite, of Ms. French is misplaced.
Danila Sheveiko July 10, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Dear Commentous, Totally agree with you that the County, and Wheaton specifically, would greatly benefit if the two branches of government worked together. Your other comments I do have to disagree with - you are once again lionizing the County Executive plan and demonizing the County Council plan. This is incredibly unfair. The Council plan is indeed smaller, but it is very specific, fully funded, and targets Wheaton's most pressing needs and highest priorities. On the other hand, while the Executive's plan with BF Saul was indeed larger, it was short on crucial details, like the timeline and the finances, and was generally characterized as "a pie in the sky" and "a cat in a bag." If your wish for the two branches of government to work together is indeed sincere, lets start with a pledge to stop whitewashing the Executive's initiatives at all costs and disparaging the Council's intentions at every opportunity. I generally enjoy reading your comments, even though we often disagree, so here is to you taking this the right way.
Commentous July 11, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Danila-If you want to write an editorial or a factual story about the history of Ike Leggett with respect to the gas station (beyond what you've written already) and include all of this information, that would be great. Nevertheless, with the facts provided solely from the article, no one would reasonably see the article as the Executive defending the gas station.
Commentous July 11, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Danila, The plan itself was not the point this time, so I included no details. If you want to use my comments to lionize the Council's plan, that's fine.;) As for community involvement, I hope that there is some community input as to the members for the newly proposed Council Wheaton redevelopment group. WUDAC members have already expressed this concern: http://wheaton-md.patch.com/articles/navarro-riemer-introduce-wheaton-working-group. I would want to ensure that homeowners are included; they were not specifically identified as a stakeholder by the Council even though business owners and "other stakeholders" were. WRAC members have not expressed concerns about the Council's proposed group because the tentative date set for appointing members to the Council's group was set for the day before the next WRAC meeting. This sort of group--reviewing what's going on with redevelopment--would have been great before a plan was chosen. It would have had the potential to ensure that the Council considered community concerns. It could also be helpful in the future IF the community has input on who will be part of the group AND the group not only implements the Council's approved parts of the plan, but also has input on future redevelopment ideas.
jenny July 11, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Maybe it looks like the Costco gas station is being targetted - but is this the first time this type of station has been proposed in Mont co? If so, it seems more to me that while this may be a reaction to the current situation it is important to set this precedent - we don't want a mega gas station in this kind of area now, and we don't want to deal with this in the future, so, we make a law preventing it. The council has had to waste time debating it that could have been spent on other matters. This is the point of making such policies in the first place. We do not need a mega gas station in Wheaton, it does not fit into county goals for the area to be highly walkable, and the environmental and health impacts (while unclear to a certain extent as such things always are) cannot be positive. And how Leggett can possibly state that Montco might look "anti-business" I have no idea, given that 4 MILLION dollars of tax money went to bring this station in the first place.
Commentous July 11, 2012 at 01:12 PM
I have no doubt that a zoning amendment of this type would be supportable as reasonably related to the public interest.
ED July 11, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I agree, Commentous. The zoning code was set up "for the purpose of protecting and promoting the health, safety, morals, comfort and welfare of the present and future inhabitants of the district". How the County Council, sitting as the District Council, can ignore this is beyond me. Their job is to ensure that the "inhabitants" health, safety, morals, comfort and welfare are protected and promoted. Contrary to what some Council members state, "inhabitants" are residents, not businesses. This mega-gas station is not like other gas stations and should be limited on where it can be located. Costco may be the first proposal, but it will not be the last.

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