ROCKVILLE – A circuit court judge left a land use case unresolved Friday between Costco Wholesale and Montgomery County over the company’s attempt to build a low-priced gas station.
Judge Gary Bair said at the oral argument Friday that he needed more time to review court documents before he could determine an outcome of Costco Wholesale’s appeal.
In 2010, Costco requested a special exception for land use to build a Costco gas station by its location at Westfield Wheaton Mall on 11160 Veirs Mill Road, according to Montgomery County’s answering memorandum to Costco’s appeal.
Rob Lueck, Costco Wholesale vice president for operations, said Costco would comply with all laws and standards of Montgomery County in the event that the special exception was granted.
“The proposed gas station will comply with all Montgomery County, Maryland and US standards,” Lueck said in a statement Friday. “The proposed gas station will be located in an area that complies with Montgomery County distance requirements from all surrounding uses in the neighborhood. The proposed gas station will comply with all applicable air quality standards.”
Karen Cordry, an attorney for Kensington Heights and president of the Kensington Heights Civic Federation, which opposes the gas station, said the attempt to get a special exception has taken five years and has cost the federation greatly.
The Kensington Heights Civic Association said the gas station would not be compatible with the location due to its proximity to residential units, to a county school with children and to a recreation facility containing a pool and tennis courts.
The Montgomery County hearing examiner did not recommend the special exception to the Montgomery County Board of Appeals in December. The board rejected the special exception in April. Costco representatives did not relinquish their request for permission to add a gas station. They appealed to the circuit court.
Cordry said, “The standard of review for reversing a county decision such as this is a very high standard in terms of being able to overturn that determination.”
Danila Sheveiko, a previous president of Kensington Heights Civic Federation, said Costco is fighting a “war of attrition.”
“As we’re waiting for this decision, we’ll have to spend more money on lawyers. It’s just not how the process should work.” Cordry said.
“The County Council voted to expend money to send the county attorney,” Sheveiko added.
Cordry said she did not think another trial would be necessary. Costco and Montgomery County representatives will have to wait for Bair to release his written opinion.
Sheveiko said the number of pumps at the gas station was less important to him than the fact the mall already has gas stations close by.
In addition, that fact that the gas station plans to distribute more gasoline than the station with the most business in the county means that queues of dozens of cars remaining idle would form, possibly releasing fumes to the air, Sheveiko said.
The 37-day hearing was partly due to the presence of calculation errors in statements by Costco, said Sheveiko.
“We kept finding errors. They divided instead of multiplied,” Sheveiko said. “None of their statements that they came up with in the beginning, calculations they came up with in the beginning, were correct.”
After Costco revised its statement multiple times with the new calculations for the hearing examiner, the company lost, Sheveiko said.
Costco declined to comment for this story.