Cars line up to get gas at a Costco station in Sacramento. Photo by multimediaimpre on flickr

After the Montgomery County Council passed a law that was intended to prevent Costco from opening a mega gas station adjacent to its new Wheaton store, the Planning Board recommended against the gas station.

The next step is a set of 6 hearings before the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings.

In a comments on Wheaton Patch, “ED” says:

I’m happy the hearings are postponed until after the [April 10] Costco opening. I think the residents of Wheaton will be up for a rude awakening when they see the traffic for Costco.

If the Costco will bring in 4,000-5,000 customers per day (per Westfield’s estimates a couple of years ago), how many more cars will they bring in if a mega-gas station is offered? I can only hope that someone has a camera when Costco opens and takes the pictures to the hearings.

Just as I previously wrote about the topic, a mega-sized Costco gas station is incompatible with the Wheaton Sector Plan, passed January 2012, that calls for a more walkable urban Wheaton.  There are few uses that would impede Wheaton’s revitalization and redevelopment than a mega-sized Costco gas station.

Such a use would require extra road infrastructure that would create an unwalkable dead zone.  A lot of land that would be better used for more walkable urban formatted amenities would be taken up with bigger multi-lane access roads that will have idling cars lined up at all hours of the day. 

The Montgomery County DOT will be especially reluctant to design any roads for pedestrians instead of cars with massive numbers of vehicles constantly traveling to and from the gas station.

Here is an aerial view of a the Woodmore Costco store that has a gas station:

Images from Google Maps.

The Costco store in Gaithersburg does not have a gas station:

Finally, here is the Wheaton site.  The Costco is scheduled to open April 10:

The Wheaton site is wholly unlike the Woodmore site, which is extremely car-oriented, and has no Metro station or legacy street grid.  It is also much more urban and pedestrian-oriented than the Gaithersburg site.  The Wheaton site is comparable to the Pentagon City Costco.  Just like in Gaithersburg, that store has no gas pumps.

Costco is a nationally successful business that will clearly make a healthy profit at the Wheaton store.  I don’t think anyone would dispute that the store will be packed from the day it opens.  Costco clearly does good business in neighboring Gaithersburg and Arlington without gas pumps.

The next round of hearings is part of the process for special zoning text amendments.  The hearings have been rescheduled for April 26, May 1, May 6, May 14, May 17, May 20, May 23 and June 4.  All hearings will be at 9:30 am in the Stella B. Werner Council Office Building, Second Floor Davidson Memorial Hearing Room, at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville.

Cavan Wilk became interested in the physical layout and economic systems of modern human settlements while working on his Master’s in Financial Economics. His writing often focuses on the interactions between a place’s form, its economic systems, and the experiences of those who live in them.  He lives in downtown Silver Spring.