Erich Brann accurately describes the Costco gas station as a "lightning rod."
Brann, Costco's director of real estate development, came to the April 10 Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee meeting to explain how Costco envisions its gas station and how it is trying to gain community support.
The Kensington Heights Civic Association, which represents the neighborhood bordering the proposed gas station site at Wheaton Mall, has led the opposition.
Last week, it announced the findings of a Johns Hopkins professor about the 16-pump gas station's potential public health hazards, particularly regarding cancer risk.
Costco and Westfield are inviting the community to an open house on April 25 at Crossway Community in Kensington. Brann said that all the consultants involved with the project will attend and answer questions. The gas station is currently in the special exception process, and the Planning Board is scheduled to meet on May 17. Public hearings before the Hearing Examiner will follow on June 4, 8, 11, and 15 in Rockville.
Brann acknowledges that one of the biggest concerns expressed by KHCA is the number of cars that will be idling as they wait in line to fuel up, likely 36 at a time. The gas station can handle 240 cars per hour, Brann said.
Some members of the Montgomery County Council agree.
“I think the idea of putting a huge gas station that will create a long line of idling vehicles right next to an neighborhood and a swimming pool is utterly abhorrent,” Councilmember Hans Riemer told the Gazette. “It’s bad for environmental and public health plans. I think it’s bad from the perspective of the long term future of the urban core of Wheaton, which needs to become a place where walking and biking is more common.”
But Costco is soldiering on with determination.
"We have to prove to them that there's no reason for concern," Brann said.