The plans for a controversial 16-pump gas station at the Wheaton Costco will not be endorsed by the Montgomery County Planning Board, after members voted 3-2 to deny a special exception permit that would allow the station to be built.
The board's decision will be forwarded to the county's Board of Appeals, which will issue a decision on the matter. A hearing examiner also has to weigh in on the plan.
The gas station has been a major point of contention among Wheaton residents. About 50 people testified Thursday night at the Planning Board's meeting, saying they were concerned about the environmental impact and potential traffic issues caused by the station, among other issues.
Planning staff said the combination of cars lining up to buy gas, the proximity of the gas station to houses and how much gas the station would hold make it a poor fit for the community.
Planning Board member Casey Anderson made the motion to recommend the denial.
He said the station would cause more traffic near the Westfield Wheaton mall and the Wheaton Metro stop. It would emphasize car use instead of encouraging people to find alternate forms of transportation, he said.
"We're trying to go toward transit-oriented development, not away from it," Anderson said.
Abigail Adelman, chairwoman of the Stop Costco Gas Coalition, said she and others fighting the proposal were pleasantly surprised by the board's decision. Going into the meeting, members of the coalition and residents fighting against the gas station didn't think it was going to turn out that way.
"It's very, very nice to have a feeling that you've been heard," she said. Residents near the mall have fought against the gas station for the last four years.
She said the group won't be completely at ease until the hearing examiner and Board of Appeals make their rulings, which could take months.
All special exception permits must be brought before a hearing examiner to determine whether they should be granted.
Despite having what's likely to be a few more months of waiting on a final decision, the Planning Board's vote gives Adelman and other activists some hope the gas station will never come to fruition.
"It's the best position to be in," she said.