Why everyone should think - again - about the proposed Costco gas station

We understand that some feel the battle over Costco's request (to put a gas station next to its store in Wheaton) to be illogical, or unreasonable, or a waste of time.

If you are one such citizen, please consider two simple questions:

1.  Suppose this was about a proposed WAWA gas station in Timbuktu.  Suppose you had a friend in Timbuktu and your friend had two small kids.  And suppose your friend had done some reading and was convinced the proposed location of the station would make an incremental increased risk of 5% that his kids would develop asthma, or cancer, or some other medical problem.  How would you feel about that situation?

2.  Suppose you want to have access to the "cheap gas" that Costco may sell in Wheaton.  And you understand that you have to pay to join Costco (or perhaps you already have), that you may have to wait in line to buy the gas, and that you may save only a few cents per gallon.  Does your "need" for the Costco gas station out-way the concern that your friend (in Timbuktu) has about the health risks to his kids?

For more info, please look at our website:  www.stopcostcogas.org

Take a look at the documents we submitted to the Hearing Examiner.  To save time, skip all the long ones and read the one entitled "Concise Summary".  It is essentially one page long.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

The Big Egg March 05, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Despite opposing Costco gas myself, I think it is worth pointing out two things: 1. This commentary is not a "Patch" viewpoint, despite the "Webmaster" user name. I find the use of that name misleading, and believe Patch should require the user to adopt a different name. 2. I am not aware of any support for the 5% increased health risk. But, in addition, that figure is meaningless if we don't know what the underlying health risk is. Look--fight Costco gas if you want. But fight fair.
Webmaster March 05, 2013 at 09:51 PM
My apolgies to The Big Egg as to point 1. My name was supposed to have been changed to scgc-webmaster. Am trying to figure out what went wrong. As to point 2, you mis-read my post. The number is not the point.
bmsinmd March 06, 2013 at 03:46 PM
HUGELY OVERWROUGHT! This is not a pool hall or pawn shop or porn store or low-rent housing going in. We're talking about a GAS STATION, as benign and passive a source of commerce as you can find. When did gas stations become such a hazard to public health? Look at the FreeState-Sunoco complex on Veirs Mill: they stand within 150 feet of a huge water storage facility that serves all of Wheaton, and within probably 100 feet of a cluster of homes. They have coexisted for 20 years, with how many poisonings of our water? And how many children now with cancer? Their combined footprint is much larger than that proposed by your Super-Mega-Jumbo station at Costco. Why is there NO concern about this 'clear and present danger'? I really think this objection to the gas station is veiled antipathy to 'big box stores'. We should be happy that a viable business like Costco wants to come to Wheaton with all the jobs and income it brings. What we'll end up with, tho, is a maimed version that can't sell alcohol OR gas. Forget about Wegmans or any other tier-one company ever coming to town. The NIMBY's are going to keep Wheaton mediocre, a place to pass by on your way to Bethesda.
Oldwheatoner March 06, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Basinmd does have a point but there is one big difference is the amount of cars waiting in line at Costco with their engines running. I have seen so many long lines at the Beltsville gas station. When I go to the Costco in Beltsville I fill up at the Shell across the street. They are competitive I am not wasting gas waiting to fill up. My concern is the traffic. I went to the meeting Costco had last month. I talked to the man who was the traffic expert. Costco feels the have a good traffic pattern for the gas station. I pointed out a huge flaw in their plan which creates a huge bottle neck. As to the traffic impact in the rest of the mall and the surrounding road was not their problem. That is for the mall and the county to study and resolve which I don't think has been considered enough. I plan to continue to go to Beltsville even though I am less than a mile from Wheaton Plaza. I don't need the hassle of getting in and out of the parking lot and trying to find a place to park. I wonder how the other businesses will be impacted when Costco opens.
Webmaster March 06, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Re: HUGELY OVERWROUGHT! We are talking about a MEGA gas station. Calling them benign is sort of ignoring the reality that they are huge and concentrate cars, pollution, etc. into a very small area. The one Costco proposes is the equivalent of about EIGHT average stations all crammed into a smaller footprint than any of the stations you mentioned. I'm not suggesting they are a huge hazard to public health; but they are an unnecessary additional risk to public health. Don't we already have enough? Do we need more? Do we need then close to homes? We are not trying to fix all existing problems, just to prevent adding an additional one. Think of this entire thing like a bunch of potholes. We ought to fix them all. But at the very least we should not dig another one - and a REALLY big one at that! As to how many children with cancer (you didn't mention asthma and all the other health risks), how can anyone know? Should we just pretend there are NO health risks and keep poisoning the air one spoonful at a time? As to the huge water tank: did I suggest that the groundwater pollution we are concerned about travels UP the pipe into an above ground tank? I don't know anyone in the SCGC who objects to the store, even the people who will be looking at it from their bedrooms. No one is objecting to the store - in fact I wish they would open it already so we can stop having to argue about a straw man. This is about the gas station. PERIOD.
Interrobang March 07, 2013 at 01:19 PM
I used to live near a Wawa and it was great! They have the best sandwiches.
Webmaster March 07, 2013 at 01:58 PM
I agree. WAWA has fairly cheap gas and they don't configure their stations so they create the lines, pollution, etc. that I object to with the proposed Costco station. In fact, I buy most of my gas at a WAWA station in St. Mary's county. I wish WAWA would build a station somewhere in the Wheaton area. That would be great!
Ktown mom March 07, 2013 at 07:26 PM
The Freestate has been in its location for over 30 years. I hope that no one would put it there today with current zoning regulations and our current knowledge of health risks. Let's not add to existing problems, especially by putting a mega gas station by a school for disabled kids.
Danila Sheveiko March 08, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Dear The Big Egg, to address your points in order of appearance: 1. "Webmaster" was certainly not the best nome de plume to pick, but this post was clearly published in the Local Voices section of Patch, so your verdict of "misleading" is a stretch. 2. If you are not aware of the health risk, check out www.stopcostcogas.org for more information or, better yet, check out images and graphics uploaded above. If you think the opposition is not fighting fair, what is your assessment of the County's and Costco's tactics?
Danila Sheveiko March 08, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Dear bmsinmd: If you think that gas stations are "as benign and passive a source of commerce as you can find," you should check out the WARNING stickers on every gas station in Maryland (a photo is uploaded above for your convenience) that clearly states: "Chemicals known to the state to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm are found in gasoline, crude oil, and many other petroleum products and their vapors, or result from their use."
Homewood resident March 10, 2013 at 01:46 AM
St. Mary's County? You must do an awful lot of driving between St. Mary's and Montgomery Counties. You probably handle more of this cancer-causing gasoline (see above photo) in a day than I use in two weeks.
Webmaster March 10, 2013 at 01:58 AM
Nope. We have a small vacation home there and go there maybe once or twice a month - and that's most of my driving. I buy my gas on the way home. I drive less than 6000 miles per year. Just happens to work out that it's easier for me to buy my gas there than here. Questions?
David Bachrach March 12, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Hey, first of all, this issue has already been decided, so there is no need to continue advocating for or against granting of a variance to Costco. No gas station. Second, it's okay to be concerned with the health effects of car exhaust. I am hoping to replace my gas car with an electric one, to address my own concerns. But I think it's disingenuous to adopt this Not In My Back Yard approach to say that gas stations should only be allowed "somewhere else." If we are going to buy and drive gas powered cars, we sure as hell better be willing to buy our gas at a station right next door to our house. And certainly at a commercially zoned piece of property where everyone drives already.
Webmaster March 12, 2013 at 05:32 PM
The "issue" has not been decided. Ask the Hearing Examiner who has scheduled 8 hearings about it - at Costco's request. The issue will not be decided until June, or July, or maybe even later. [Which is really too bad, because a lot of people want the store to open and think Costco won't open the store until the gas station issue is decided.] Once again: a. This is about a mega gas station, and the risks from it are grossly different than those from even a "typical large gas station". More than an order or magnitude greater. b. We do not believe such gas stations should be in anyone's back yard - anywhere. That's why we are already working at the state level to get statewide legislation passed. If proper guidelines are established and the result is that no mega gas station can be built anywhere, then so be it. No one that I know is having any trouble buying gas. Paying too much, perhaps. But no mega gas station, no matter where it is put is going to sell gas so cheaply that everyone is suddenly happy about the price of gas.
steve March 12, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Costco is the real issue here. The people who oppose the station also fought the store. Development is the issue. Other stores in the mall dont have the same issues. Costco brings growth, money and jobs. The opposition does not want growth. They put up a dozen new homes on university blvd no problem. more traffic more cars who cares. They took down good council more cars, more traffic. They are putting up 3 new apts or condos, no opposition. Walmat & costco bring in traffic jobs and money thats what they oppose. future development..
Webmaster March 12, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Can you spell red-herring? No one in the Kensington Heights community opposed the Costco store. No one in SCGC opposes the Costco store. We all want it to open. Why won't Costco open the store??? I don't know anyone in "the opposition" who opposes growth. It just seems we need smart growth, not dumb growth. Your "argument" seems to go off on multiple tangents, with no clear focus. No opposition to a few new apartments (vs how many?) somehow means the opposition doesn't care? Are we in favor of more traffic? How did you get that? Walmart (which one?) brings in jobs. And what has that got to do with Costco's gas station? It will bring in two jobs. Wow! If you really think "the opposition" is against growth, at least say something that is even vaguely relevant. As to simply being against Costco, consider this. Label the proposed gas station WAWA, or BJ's, or Sam's Club. Try to cram that into the tiny space in the parking lot near Target and the Costco store, etc. Would we still oppose that gas station? You bet!
David Bachrach March 12, 2013 at 09:35 PM
There is an argument to be made, Mark (presumably the above-named webmaster), against putting the gas station where Costco has proposed. But your tone and vocabulary are very off putting. I see that you represent the views of 67 people and three organizations, and that is impressive, but do you need to try to discredit someone who disagrees with the opinions (not facts) you have stated? A "mega" station? I see that it is slated at just 16 nozzles. "No need" for this business? There isn't a single business in Wheaton that "needs" to be right there, sure. It is the opinion of your group that there is no need, I can appreciate that. But writing out that people who disagree with these very strongly felt, reasoned opinions are "ignoring reality" really is a turn off. Hard to want to consider your position, sorry.
Webmaster March 12, 2013 at 10:34 PM
"Sorry"? I'm sorry too. Am not sure where you get the idea that I am "writing out" people. I thought the blogosphere was for dialogue. Don't believe I used the term "ignoring reality"; but might well have, if I believed someone was doing that. Just because an opinion is "strongly felt" or "reasoned" does not mean the opinion is valid. It seems to me that we are attempting to arrive at a consensus as to what is the "most reasonable" opinion. If someone asserts something that is just not so, am I supposed to ignore it? Am not sure what part(s) of my tone or vocabulary you find "very off putting". But you find it hard to consider my position? Sorry.
Doug S. March 13, 2013 at 12:32 AM
"mega" does not refer to the number of nozzles. "mega" refers to the amount of gas pumped: 12 million gallons/year. That's the number Costco's environmental expert did his modeling for. According to this report by the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing: http://www.nacsonline.com/NACS/Resources/campaigns/GasPrices_2011/Documents/StatisticsDefinitions.pdf "In addition to convenience stores and gas stations, there are a number of big-box retailers that sell fuel, including Walmart, Costco and a number of grocery chains. As of July 2010, hypermarket companies in the United States operated more than 4,800 “hypermarket” sites (big-box retailers) and sold 16.4 billion gallons of gasoline. These sites sell approximately 262,000 gallons per month, about twice the volume of a traditional fuel retailer. " Hypermarket site: 3.1 million gallons per year Traditional fuel retailer: 1.6 million gallons per year Costco at Wheaton: 12 million gallons per year It would be like having about 4 hypermarket stations or 7.5 traditional stations 125 feet from the nearest houses. Would you want to live in those houses? BTW, the figure of 1.6 million annual gallons for a normal-sized gas station is supported by this: http://www.energyalmanac.ca.gov/transportation/summary.html (California)


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