Residents near the Westfield Wheaton shopping mall last week spoke out against Costco's proposed 16-pump gas station in a meeting at a local swim club.
More than a dozen representatives from Costco and about 60 residents met Oct. 24 at the Kenmont Swim & Tennis Club to discuss the gas station, which is scheduled to go before the County Board of Appeals on Feb. 24.
Costco must earn a special zoning exception to build the gas station, which would have about 12 million gallons of annual volume and attract as many as 55 vehicles at a time. As many as 39 cars would be able to wait in the gas station’s eight lanes.
Erich Brann, Costco's director of real estate development, said the company requested the meeting as part of the special exception process.
The Kensington Heights Civic Association, which includes residents from the neighborhood beyond Westfield Wheaton’s south and west parking lots, took a leading role in the meeting. After a 20-minute presentation from Costco officials, residents Larry Silverman and Danila Sheveiko argued the gas station could cause harm to air quality and nearby streams.
Brann presented noise and vehicle emission studies from the Wheaton site and from Costco’s existing gas station in Sterling, Va., that indicated the environmental effect of the station would not be harmful to nearby residents.
"The worst case scenario is the gas station would increase odors in the neighborhood very slightly, if any at all," Brann said.
Most residents voiced their displeasure with the project in a question and answer session. Some pushed for Costco to perform a full environmental impact study, though it is not required by law. The swim club is located about 100 yards from the proposed site of the gas station.
Others, including Del. Al Carr (D-Dist. 18), asked if the station could be built at another site, farther from the neighborhood.
“Operationally, it’s very difficult,” Brann said. “The two station attendants are supported by warehouse staff.”
Brann said Costco explored putting the gas station on the former site of the Ourisman Chevrolet on Viers Mill Road, but zoning and grading issues made it too difficult.
Jeff Ishida, Costco’s vice president of real estate development, said 79 percent of Costco warehouses have gas stations, about 342 total.
“You are asking us to take this chance so you don’t have to alter your business model,” said KHCA member Donna Savage. “We don’t accept that.”
The KHCA is not against the Costco store, but is against the gas station as proposed at the southwest corner of the Westfield Wheaton property.