The Gazette posted an article on their website yesterday quoting Westfield Wheaton management saying that the Costco project will probably not move forward unless the county council waives the environmental study requirements currently in place for new gas stations at shopping centers. I was totally scooped on this by Good Eatin in Wheaton and What's Up Wheaton, so check them out for some great coverage.
I have a big deadline at work this week, so I'm going to keep this short. These demands by Westfield and Costco are complete crap, and I'm going to be really pissed if the county council actually passes the ZTA (zoning text amendment) that would allow the environmental study to be bypassed. The Gazette article states that right now, a majority of council members say they will vote against the ZTA and I just hope they stand their ground as Westfield attempts to add pressure to their decision. I also think this says alot about how Westfield views its 'neighbors' in Wheaton if its strategy for bringing in a new tenant is to try to bulldoze over any concerns that the community has.
I know the county would love to get the added tax revenue and jobs that Costco will apparently bring in, and that's why I'm still a little nervous that the council members won't hold their ground about denying the ZTA. If something like this was going down in Bethesda, I think the council would have a much stronger reaction to it, but unfortunately, I'm just not sure if the council will stand up as strongly to defend Wheaton.
I'm posting the relevant meetings noted in the Gazette article if anyone wants to attend and have their voice heard:
1. The Planning Board will discuss the ZTA at their meeting on May 13, 8787 Georgia Ave, Time TBD. Right now, it's the last item listed on the board's agenda for a session that starts at 1:30pm. Also, you can send an email to the board, and if you reference the issue you're emailing about (ZTA 10-04) and they receive it at least 24 hours before their meeting, your email message will be provided 'for the consideration of the board'. Send your emails to MCP-Chair at mncppc-mc.org. My understanding is that after this meeting, the planning board will their recommendation to the county council, which will make the ultimate decision in whether to pass the ZTA.
2. The County Council will have a public meeting at 7:30pm on May 20, 100 Maryland Ave, 7th Floor (Stella B. Warner Council Building). I checked the county council website, and they don't post meeting agendas as far in advance as the planning board does, so right now, you can't view an agenda for the meeting on the 20th. Their website does note that as an alternative to participating in a council meeting in person, they will accept written material either in person before the meeting starts or by mail. It sounds like you may want to include 15 copies so that each council member can have a copy. I would keep letters short, since in-person testimony is limited to 3 mintues, and reference ZTA 10-04 and the May 20th meeting in the letter. The address is:
Council's Office of Legislative Information Services
Council Office Building
100 Maryland Ave.
Rockville, MD 20850
Between these two meetings and the Wheaton Sector Plan meeting on the 19th, there are lots of opportunities to have a say in what direction Wheaton's development heads in. Even if you don't have time to attend one of the meetings, at least send an email to the planning board or a letter to the council.