It’s been a long road for Costco and local opposition groups in making their cases on whether the county should allow Costco to build a 16-pump gas station in the mega-store’s parking lot. Costco has sought a special exception ruling to build the gas station for the past two years.
The Costco store opened last April at the Wheaton Westfield Mall, but plans to open a gas station on the site have stalled.
At issue is whether the gas station poses a threat or nuisance to nearby neighborhoods and a special needs school. Opposition groups have been fighting approval, citing noise, traffic and air pollution as primary concerns.
Hearings before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings continued over the past week, with Costco making its case for opening the station last Friday and opposition groups — the Kensington Heights Civic Association and Stop Costco Gas Coalition — presenting their case on Monday.
Opposition groups are disputing pollution impact reports previously submitted by Costco, in which they found mathematical errors.
Costco has since acknowledged the mistakes. In a more recent report on air pollution estimates, the company reported lower estimated levels of certain air pollutants than in a previous report.
The newer report used the same data, such as recorded levels of air pollutants, and equations to predict impacts. The difference is in the assumptions used, for example, the estimated number of cars idling in the area on a given day, affecting estimated pollutant levels.
But opposition groups claim Costco has tried to produce different pollution levels after corrected calculations led to unfavorable data.
“Costco scrapped their air quality model that they’ve been defending for two years now,” Danila Sheveiko of the Kensington Heights Civic Association said.
David Sullivan, of Sullivan Environmental Consulting, who prepared the reports for Costco, testified Friday in defense of the revised calculations showing lower levels of air pollutants — levels that meet EPA guidelines.
Further hearings to continue the discussion are scheduled for Oct. 17, 21, 24 and 28. Depending on the outcome of these hearings, additional hearings may be scheduled. Once case procedures are complete, the Hearing Examiner has 30 days to submit a report with a recommendation to the Board of Appeals for a final decision.