Costco takes case for Wheaton gas station to court

ROCKVILLE, Md. — One of Montgomery County’s longest running land battles went before a judge on Friday.

Costco has been fighting since 2011 to build a 16-pump gas station near its store at the Westfield Wheaton Shopping Center. But the project has encountered opposition from the county and surrounding communities.

After 37 days of hearings, which created a case file of 9,500 pages, the county’s zoning board decided not to grant a special exception needed for the project to move forward. The county also denied an appeal by Costco.

The county found that the box store couldn’t prove that the filling station wouldn’t come with negative health impacts for people living in surrounding communities.

Costco is now appealing the county’s decision in court. Lawyers for the retailer said that station would be safe.

Community activists also spoke at the hearing and claimed that nitrogen dioxide levels, created by the gas station, would be dangerous to nearby neighborhoods, which are home to a community pool and a county school for disabled children.

“The health effects from those idling cars is what makes this situation unique and uniquely problematic,” Karen Cordry, president of the Kensington Heights Civic Association told the judge.

Costco lawyers said that the station would not exceed air pollution levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of the Maryland.

The county also found that the project would have a negative impact on traffic in an area that already experiences heavy traffic. The station, according to the county, could see close to 50 cars idling, while waiting to fill up at one time. Costco says the station would only be accessible from the Ring Road, which is on mall property and would keep traffic from impacting Viers Mill Road and University Boulevard.

The county also called into to question the methods in which Costco used to determine that the station would meet all environmental requirements.

In a statement Rob Leuck, Costco Wholesale vice president, says the company tried to show that the county’s zoning board made a mistake in not granting the special exception to build the station.

“Costco is absolutely committed to the health and safety of Montgomery County’s residents. The proposed gas station will comply with all Montgomery County, Maryland and U.S. standards,” Leuck said in a statement.

Leuck said the proposed station will be located in an area that meets Montgomery County’s distance requirements from all surrounding uses in the neighborhood.

Cordry said after the hearing that she is cautiously optimistic that the judge will side with the county in this case.

The judge said he will review the case, but didn’t give a timeline for a decision.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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