Wheaton Costco Opens, But Gas Pump Fight Continues

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    The Wheaton Costco is open and packed with shoppers, but there's still no end to the fight over gas pumps. News4's Chris Gordon reports. (Published Wednesday, April 10, 2013)

    The Wheaton Costco is open and packed with shoppers, but there's still no end to the fight over gas pumps.

    At Wednesday's grand opening, some customers supported the store's plan to sell gas, but a community group is still working hard against those pumps.

    Because of Wheaton's diverse ethnic mix, Costco wants to be accessible to all.

    "I am bilingual, and of course they do speak Spanish," customer Frines Alcantara said.

    The Wheaton Costco has a kosher food section stocked for a large Jewish clientele.

    "It has the full line that you would get in the New York or New Jersey area,  a very dense kosher population," Costco Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Yitzchak Hanoka said.

    It has high-priced items like TVs, jewelry, cameras and designer handbags that drew a crowd of bargain shoppers.

    Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said the county made a big investment to get Costco to build in Wheaton.

    "The combination of having Costco  jobs filling this hole that Hecht's left  and providing revitalization for Wheaton I feel is all worthwhile," he said.

    But Costco has been frustrated because neighbors have blocked its plans to build a 16-pump gas station at the site.

    Many of the people who live in Wheaton wanted Costco to be built. What they didn’t want was a mega gas station with the traffic and fumes in their backyard.

    "Fumes are definitely a top concern for us  because of all the idling that Costco gas stations experience," said Dan Sheveiko, of the Kensington Heights Civic Association.

    "There are people who live 125 feet from the proposed gas station,” environmental attorney Larry Silverman said. “There’s a school for severely handicapped children 850 feet from the gas station and much closer to the queuing cars.”

    Costco Customers have to drive to Gaithersburg, Beltsville or Landover to get gas.

    Chris Rich said Costco gas attendants help drivers with disabilities.

    "We need it here,” customer Chris Rich said. “I currently have to drive 9 miles  to find low-cost gasoline  and someone to pump it for me. I can’t get my wheelchair out of the car in a dangerous gas station to pump my own gas."

    Hearings on a gas station will be held at the end of the month.