Montgomery planners oppose bill blocking a Costco gas station in Wheaton

The Montgomery County planning department opposes legislation that would block plans for a gas station at a Costco under construction next the Westfield Mall in Wheaton.

In April, Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) proposed the bill after hearing concerns from residents near the site. Civic activists say the gas station is a public health risk because it is too close to residential neighborhoods and a swimming pool.

Costco has lobbied against the bill and started a rigorous application process with the county to gain approval for construction. As part of the process, the retailer submitted a report saying there is no community health risk. A public hearing that is part of the application process could take place in October.

County planning staff said in a report released last week that the application process already allows for public input. They also said that the bill is overly burdensome to developers.

Planning staff said county legislators should tweak the bill if they want to approve it. The technical amendments that planning staff proposes would effectively allow construction of the Costco station to move forward.

The planning board is expected to discuss the bill at a meeting Thursday. A County Council committee is also expected to do so July 9.

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