Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Costco still fighting to build mega gas station at Wheaton Plaza

Seven years after first proposing to build a mega gas station outside its store at Wheaton Plaza, Costco is still fighting local residents over the issue. While many thought the big box chain would cut its losses and concede the point after many losses in court, Costco is now pressing the case in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Arguments for both sides were presented in Annapolis yesterday. Thus there now remains a real possibility that the mega gas station could be built. There is only one higher court to appeal to in the state, whatever the outcome.

Here's what I find extremely intriguing. The Montgomery County Council strongly supports Costco, but viciously opposes Walmart, for purely political and ideological reasons. But when the Council used illegal means (placing and/or threatening limitations of property rights, which would have been overturned in court as spot zoning against one business), Walmart simply ran for the hills with its tail between its legs. I've never seen a "developer" run for their lives like that before or since in Montgomery County.

In the same spot, its plans vehemently opposed by community activists, Costco continually doubles down and throws everything but the kitchen sink at the neighbors. In the end, the Council supported the mustache-twirling robber barons of Costco (giving millions in Costco-targeted taxpayer funds to Westfield, to boot) over Walmart, against their own constituents. Interesting.

Whether you support or oppose the mega gas station is beside the point (I'd very much like to have Sheetz convenience stores in Montgomery County, but a "mega gas station" comes with those too) -- which big box is anti-community again?


  1. Costco is a regional draw and they pay their employees a solid wage. It's perfectly valid to disagree w/the county's use of funds to attract the company, but it's absurd to say the only difference between a Walmart and a Costco is "political."

    1. But it is political - the idea that a retailer has a right to operate in Montgomery County based on whether I arbitrarily think their wages are too low or too high is a completely political, ideological determination. Not an economic one. Both have big box stores, but look at which one is most eager to fight the community - Costco. For the sake of fossil fuels, to boot! They really make odd bedfellows with their adoring fans on the Council.

    2. How are wages not an economic issue? Of course MoCo - and any other jurisdiction with options - doesn't want to attract low-wage employers. What political party prefers Walmart's $10.75/hour (would be lower but for county requirements) employees to Costco's $45K/year employees, if this is a political issue? What jurisdiction wants their residents to work full time at Walmart, yet still have to be on welfare to survive?

    3. The answer is...every single jurisdiction that surrounds us welcomes Walmart, including the ultra-liberal DC Council. Interestingly, every single jurisdiction around us also added jobs since 2000 - even Culpepper and Carroll County. Meanwhile, anti-Walmart Montgomery County experienced an embarrassing net *loss* of private sector jobs over that same period.
      Just cross the County line into DC, Fairfax, Gorgeous Prince George's, Frederick and Carroll Counties - you seemingly hit a Walmart every mile. Plenty of people - in fact, a record number - in Montgomery County earn minimum wage and are on welfare.

    4. You, literally, just made my point without realizing it. Read up on Walmart in DC: DC allowed Walmart in w/the condition that they open two stores in severely underserved parts of Ward 7. And then Walmart turned around and screwed DC by backing out of those planned stores after their prefered stores opened. Go and ask DC if they still are happy with their choice to believe Walmart's lies. Spoiler alert: they're pissed as hell.


      And the rest of your argument still makes no sense. Of course the county favored Costco's higher salaries to Walmart's lower salaries. They have common sense. I don't understand why you are arguing against such a basic facts.

      Speaking of "basic facts:" you're 100% wrong in your claim "Montgomery County experienced an embarrassing net *loss* of private sector jobs...since 2000." Most recent (Q2 2016) BLS count has MoCo private sector jobs at 471K, roughly 100K higher than in 2000.

    5. For context, MoCo's entire job count (including govt jobs) was 474K in 2000; maybe that's what you're confusing.

    6. Even Hans Riemer's former chief of staff wrote a whole blog post on The Seventh State detailing how we lost private sector jobs while everyone else gained. The Maryland Retailers Association said we lost 2000 retail jobs over the same period. I studied all the stats myself. These sound like those magic numbers the County used to triple count each job - not accurate.

      I did follow the DC Walmart situation closely at the time because it was so relevant to us. What happened was, DC reached an agreement for all those stores, but then raised the minimum wage in the middle of the process. The less optimal store locations ceased to be profitable under the new wage cost, and Walmart canceled them. The DC Council was to blame for that.

    7. The numbers are from the BLS - you know, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. So, to some up your argument, it's "nope! BLS facts aren't real!," "it's DC's fault that Walmart screwed them," and "Costco's higher paying jobs aren't better than Walmart's lower paying jobs - that's just 'politics,' not 'economics.'"