Montgomery County officials are putting a top economic priority on clearing the way for the new Costco store.
It would be located in the mall next to a quiet neighborhood where residents are not happy about part of the project. Neighbors who live near Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton have been putting up with traffic for years, but now they are worried about air pollution and noise right in their backyards.
In Beltsville, the Costco sells gas to its customers right on the premises, with four lanes feeding 16 fuel pumps.
There is no gas station at the Costco in Gaithersburg because there wasn't enough land to build one, but there is plenty of room at Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton, where Costco could be built on the location where the old Hecht's store has been vacant since 2006. A gas station could be put in the parking lot.
But just 50 yards away, some homeowners in the Kensington Heights Community are displaying lawn signs opposing Costco Gas.
"We like Costco, but we don't want a Costco gas station built," said Sandra McWherter, who has lived there for 50 years. "It will pollute our air."
The 375 families that belong to the Kenmont Swim and Racket Club are fuming about potential fumes as well.
"The pumps would be located 115 yards away," said Donna Savage, former president of the Kensington Heights Citizens Association. "Costco gas is cheap. People will line up to buy it with their motors running. We don't want to gulp in that pollution here at the pool."
Residents said they wouldn't object to Costco if its gas pumps could be put on busy Viers Mill Road, but there are already 14 gas stations in the area, and Steve Silverman, Montgomery County's economic development chief, said Costco's model is to build its stores and gas stations next to each other.
"We hope to work with residents to reach a compromise and meet that goal," he said.
Montgomery County officials are concerned that opposition to the pumps could cause Costco to decide against locating in Wheaton.
Of the last 95 Costco stores across the country, 93 have included a gas station.