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Wheaton Residents Take Costco Gas Station Fight To State House

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Some state lawmakers says the Wheaton zoning issue is better handled at the county level.
Matt Bush
Some state lawmakers says the Wheaton zoning issue is better handled at the county level.

Residents of a Wheaton subdivision in Maryland were unsuccessful in getting a law through the Montgomery County Council regarding the placement of a mega-gas station at the Costco store in the Westfield Wheaton Mall, so now they are turning to the state legislature.

A bill from Montgomery County Del. Alfred Carr would require all such mega-gas stations commonly attached to big-box and grocery stores to be placed at least 1,000 feet away from residential neighborhoods. That's the same distance a bill last year in the council called for, though eventually the council lowered that restriction to 300 feet.

Residents like Karen Cordry of Kensington Heights, which borders the mall, feel that was still close enough to prompt serious health concerns. She urged state lawmakers to approve the 1,000-foot requirement.

"Our concerns start with the fact that current zoning regulations are inadequate to deal with these stations," Cordry said. "Many of them are dated and enacted long before the advent of these new mega-stations or 'hyper markets' as they've been called."

But opposition to the bill also comes from Montgomery County. Del. Brian Feldman isn't sure the state should get involved.

"Fundamentally, is the state legislature the place to be debating this? Or should this be left to the locals and our planning boards around the state?" said Frosh. "As I understand it, no state in the country has a stand back provision like this."

Even if the bill is approved, residents of Kensington Heights are not sure whether it will be in time to change where Costco will build its gas station at Wheaton Mall.

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