The Montgomery County Planning Department has recommended Costco’s special exception request for its planned Wheaton gas station be denied, citing adverse health impacts, among other reasons.
Costco must receive a special exception from the county Board of Appeals before it can apply for a building permit to construct the planned 16-pump gas station near the Westfield Wheaton shopping mall.
A planning staff report describes three sections of the county Zoning Ordinance that led to their recommendation and which relate to non-inherent adverse effects, adverse health impacts and Costco’s burden of proof.
The non-inherent adverse effects refer to those effects that are unique to a particular place, said Renee Kamen, the lead reviewer of Costco’s special exception case for the planning department.
In the case of the gas station, those effects include location, size and vehicle queuing, she said.
“Staff has determined that three of the proposed use’s six non-inherent characteristics are cause for concern because combined, they have the potential to create adverse health impacts for residents of the area to the south of the proposed Site,” the report says.
The planning staff members also disagreed with the analysis Costco provided regarding adverse health impacts, Kamen said, including its analysis of various toxics.
“Staff’s conclusion is that the Applicant’s analyses and assertion of no adverse health impacts is based on insufficient information, and may have understated the exposure of the adjacent population to some of the toxics,” the report says.
The gas station also would produce hot spots of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, Kamen said.
“Staff also disagrees with the Applicant’s cancer risk analysis based on the estimated additional incremental exposure to VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds] ... both from stationary and mobile sources because we question the Applicant’s low assessment of residential exposure rates to these carcinogens,” the report says.
Costco also did not meet the burden of proof to support its claims in its application that the station would not produce any adverse effects that would be unique to the Wheaton station, or any adverse effects on health, Kamen said.
Erich Brann, director of real estate development for Costco, said he could not comment on the planning staff recommendation.
Abigail Adelman, chair of the Stop Costco Gas Coalition, said the coalition is pleased with the staff’s report and its comments regarding adverse health effects, which mirror some of their own arguments against the station.
“I thought they were quite comprehensive,” Adelman said.
“I think we have a long way to go,” she added.
The county Planning Board, whose members will consider the planning staff report before they make their own recommendation, is scheduled to hold a public hearing Feb. 28 regarding Costco’s special exemption request.