Montgomery County Planning Department staff issued an unfavorable report last week on a county council bill that would prohibit a planned 16-pump Costco gas station at Westfield Wheaton shopping mall.
Staff did not recommend approval of ZTA 12-07, the zoning text amendment introduced in April by council member Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park that would prohibit gas stations that dispense more than 3.6 million gallons of gas per year within 1,000 feet of schools, parks or other public recreation uses. Costco’s station, located in the parking lot of its warehouse store, would have an annual volume of 12 million gallons per year within 1,000 feet of the Kenmont Swim & Tennis Club at 2900 Faulkner Place.
Members of the club and residents from the nearby Kensington Heights Civic Association argue that a gas station of its size poses an environmental risk. Costco officials say the current special exception process is rigorous enough and its consultants will prove the station would not harm the community.
Planning Department staff, ahead of Thursdays Planning Board review of the proposed amendment, said the existing special exception process provides adequate standards and requirements for gas station zoning.
If the county council approves the amendment, planning staff recommends it define large gas stations by number of pumps and not gasoline volume, reduce the distance requirement from 1,000 feet to 300 feet and include more specific language to define public recreation uses.
A county council public hearing on the amendment is scheduled for June 19.