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RECENT UPDATES

NOTE: This page of the original SCGC website contained a Google calendar. That has been eliminated from this archived version.

WHAT'S NEW???


This is the SCGC internal blog section.  Members of the Coordinating Committee (CC) use it to post the most recent news about the ongoing process by which decisions on the proposed Costco mega gas station are being made.  The postings are in reverse order so that the most recent post is at the top.  We'll do our best to keep the calendar and other pages on this site current, but this section WILL reflect the 'hottest' news as we receive it!

IS COSTCO ESSENTIALLY TELLING LIES AGAIN?
      Like the wounded Goliath it is, Costco is 'essentially' telling lies about the proposed ZTA being considered by the County Council.  This is not the first time that Costco reps have mislead supporters in an effort to get the gas station built where Costco wants to build it.  A detailed analysis of Costco's efforts to dupe concerned citizens about the facts is available here.
23 April, 2015
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COSTCO APPLICATION IS DENIED
      The Ethics Commission ruled that the issues of possible conflict of interest raised by two members of the Board of Appeals were not of sufficient concern to warrant recusing those two members from participating in Board of Appeals deliberation on S-2863.  On March 11, 2015, the Board of Appeals announced that it had decided to deny Costco's application (S-2863).  In principle, Costco can pursue this matter at the Appellate Court level.  If Costco does file for such action, it is our understanding that Montgomery County Government is required to provide legal support on behalf of the Opposition.  That is, the County must fight any request by Costco to reverse the Board of Appeals decision.  It is also our understanding that, because the SCGC was not represented by Counsel (we appeared before the Hearing Examiner "pro se"), we would have no standing in any action at the Appellate Court level.  If Costco does not file for reversal of the Board of Appeals decision, Costco can wait for approximately 18 months and then file a new application for the Special Exception to build the proposed gas station.  We have no information as to how different from - or similar to - S-2863 any such new application would have to be.  A more detailed analysis is available here.
13 March 2015
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County Ethics Commission Action Unclear
      The Ethics Commission declined to issue a public evaluation of the conflict of interest question(s) raised by the Board of Appeals.  It is our understanding that a decision will be proffered at some point in the future, but we have no information as to when or how.
10 February 2015
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Board of Appeals Defers Action
      The Board of Appeals met on January 21, 2015 but did not take any action on the Costco matter (S-2863).  Claiming concern over potential conflicts of interest involving two of the five Board members, the Board deferred any action on the matter until the County Ethics Commission could consider the possible conflicts of interest.  The next meeting of the Ethics Committee is scheduled for 10 February, after which the Board may take up the matter of S-2863.  There was no explanation as to why the concerned Board members had not raised the issues of potential conflicts of interest some time ago, given that evaluation of S-2863 has been on-going for some two years.  One cannot help wondering whether the concerns about conflict of interest would have been raised at this late date if the Hearing Examiner (or the Planning Staff or the Planning Board) had recommended approval, rather than the recommendation of DENIAL rendered at all three stages in the process.
21 January 2015
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Kudos for Hearing Examiner      
      The Hearing Examiner, Martin Grossman, listened to every word and read every page in this long case. His decision is a model of legal discipline and logical thinking. His conduct of the hearings, his good humor, his attentiveness, his astuteness, his eagerness to give every witness a fair hearing, were in every way exemplary. His recommendation should be approved by unanimous vote of the Board of Appeals. He brings credit to the County Government. You don't need to agree with everything in his opinion, but you must concede that every decision was the result of mature and informed consideration of the evidence. Anything less than unanimous ratification would cast a shadow over what should be a bright example of administrative decision making.
Larry Silverman, 21 December 2014
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Message to all Stop Costco Gas Coalition members:
      The time for waiting is over!   On December 12, The Hearing Examiner recommended DENIAL of Costco’s application to build a mega 16 nozzle gas station 118 feet from residential back yards. 
      What a Holiday present.  We are delighted.  The hearings alone took 1 year  and nine months - a hard slog- but we worked ceaselessly and stuck together, besting a huge law firm and Costco's own Corporate Counsel who - in the latter stages of the hearing - flew in from Seattle for each hearing date.
      This is the end of the 3rd step in a 4 step process.  The first 3 steps each recommended DENIAL. Now the application will be considered by the Board of Appeals and theirs is the final decision. The entire record from the Hearings (over 9500 pages), as well as 650 exhibits, will be forwarded to the Board of Appeals, along with the Hearing Examiner's, the Planning Board's and the Planning Staff's recommendations for denial. We are in hopes that the Board will agree with the 3 recommendations  and render a final decision for denial.  As it is the holiday season, I do not know the time frame for this matter to be considered by the Board but I will let you know their decision in early 2015, most likely.
      We entered this fight in February of 2010. It has been a long 5 years.  We are grateful for the support both financial and  emotional that you all have given to us.  To hear from you on a day when this seemed unending meant so very much.  
      Thank you.  We send everyone warm wishes for a very Happy Holiday season.

      Best Wishes,
      Abigail Adelman
28 December 2014
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ANALYSIS:  The recommendation, by the Hearing Examiner, for DENIAL of Costco's application,  coupled with previous recommendations of DENIAL (by the Planning Staff and The Planning Board) constitute a striking series of 'losses' for the corporate Goliath.  An analysis of how this can be understood is available here (in preparation).
16 December 2014
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HEARING EXAMINER RECOMMENDS DENIAL
      The hearing Examiner in Case S-2863 has recommended DENIAL of Costco's application.  His full report (quite detailed and including two extensive appendices) is available here.
13 December, 2014
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SECOND EXTENSION IN SUBMISSION OF HEARING EXAMINER'S REPORT
      On November 24, 2014 the Hearing Examiner announced a second extension in the time period for preparation of his report and recommendation.  Again citing the "voluminous nature" of the record in S-2863, the HE announced he would submit his report on December 23, 2014.  He does not expect any further extensions.
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HEARING EXAMINER'S REPORT
    Once all files related to the various hearings (including the oral arguments of September 19) were corrected as agreed to by all parties, the record was closed and the Hearing Examiner began the preparation of his report and recommendation (to the Board of Appeals).  Given the volume of materials in the record in this case, it was not surprising that the HE requested an extension
.  It is our understanding that his report is expected to be submitted on/about November 26, 2014.
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CLOSING ARGUMENTS - ORAL
    A final session was held on September 19, 2014, at which oral closing statements were heard.  A transcript of that session is available hereNote that the transcript is dated August 19, which we believe is a typographical error reflecting the fact that this session was originally scheduled for August 19.
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CLOSING STATEMENTS - WRITTEN
      On July 1, Costco filed its Closing 'Brief', available here.

      On July 20, KVCA filed its Closing Statement, available here.
      On July 22, SCGC filed its Closing Statement, available here.
      On July 23, KHCA filed its Closing Statement, available here; appendices are available here.

      On August 18, Costco filed its Reply Brief; available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF THURSDAY, May 29; transcript is available here.
   This was the 36th and last hearing on S-2863.  Following is an approximate timeline for the 'final' steps in the process - as we understand it.  We will publish a revised timeline if/when we become aware that the information provided here is inaccurate.
1.  Written closing statement by the applicant is due by June 30.  Written closing statements by opposing groups are due by July 21.  Applicant can file a reply brief ( in response to opposition written closing statements) by July 31.
2.  On August 14, applicant and opposition present oral closing statements, if they wish to do so.  The HE has indicated he will allow approximately 40 minutes (total for each side) for these oral statements.  SCGC does not anticipate making an oral closing statement.
3.  The HE then has some 45 days to prepare a written report, recommending either approval or denial of S-2863.  He may require an extension in order to prepare his report - and any conditions he stipulates that the Board of Appeals may wish to consider when it issues its decision.

4.  Once the report of the HE has been sent to the Board of Appeals, they have some time period to issue their decision.  We do not know when that decision is likely to be made available.
5.  Given the length of the process and the intensity of the arguments, it is expected that one side or the other will appeal the ruling of the Board of Appeals, at the appellate court level.  We do not have any factual basis for estimating when this phase of the process will be concluded. 

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OZAH HEARING OF THURSDAY, May 22; transcript is available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF TUESDAY, May 20; transcript is available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF MONDAY, May 12; transcript available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF THURSDAY, May 8; transcript available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF THURSDAY, May 1; transcript available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF TUESDAY, April 29; transcript available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF TUESDAY, April 1; transcript available here.
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KHCA Fundraising Extravaganza
    The Kensington Heights Civic Association, which has waged a more than four year battle to prevent Costco's threat to build a mega gas station in Westfield's Wheaton Mall is hosting a day long (March 22) No Costco Gas Extravaganza to raise funds needed to complete their effort, which is also part 1 of the SCGC effort:  to defeat Costco.  For a flyer and press release about this event, click here.  We urge all those who oppose the proposed siting of this ill-conceived - and unjustifiable - threat to peoples' health and quality of life:  support the KHCA fundraiser.  Attend if you can; contribute even if you can't attend.  The flyer and press release have all the information you need!!
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Costco's Colossal Miscalculations
      For the second time in the marathon struggle to prevent the Costco corporation from squeezing a mega gas station into the Wheaton Westfield Mall, where it would pollute the air and otherwise inconvenience its neighbors, one of Costco's high paid technical "experts" showed himself to be arithmetically challenged. The traffic expert, Wes Guckert, who regularly testifies as a  professional expert in Montgomery County zoning cases, brought boxes of charts and figures purporting to prove that the average queues of cars waiting to fill up on discount gas at Costco stations, was rarely more than 2 deep. What a surprise for those of us who have waited in long queues at the Beltsville or Columbia Costco gas stations. Turns out, after a dogged cross examination by Karen Cordry, President of Kensington Heights Civic Association, which is opposing the gas station, Mr. Guckert acknowledged that his figures only applied for the period of 6:00 am to 10:00 am, the period of least traffic, and not for the full 15 hours Costco gas stations stay open, as he had claimed. Nearly four years into this controversy, Mr. Guckert, one of the mainstays of Costco's case, promised to re-calculate.
      Guckert is the second Costco expert to embarrass himself at the Special Exception hearings that have been running for nearly a year now. Last summer,  Costco's air pollution expert, David Sullivan, confidently assured the hearing examiner, as he had previously assured the County Council, the Planning Board and numerous citizen meetings, that based on his extensive calculations and reports, in the thousands of pages, the neighbors had nothing to fear from breathing the car exhaust from the queues at the proposed Costco gas station, only 125 feet from the nearest home. The predicted levels of pollutants were supposedly  well below the EPA health standards. Under cross examination by Ms. Cordry and Kensington Heights attorney, Michele Rosenfeld, Mr. Sullivan was forced to admit that in reaching his conclusion he had divided one critical number, when he should have multiplied. After correcting the arithmetic error, Mr. Sullivan's own report showed substantial violations of minimum health standards. Not to worry. A few weeks later, Mr. Sullivan produced yet another report, using different methods, which claimed there was no problem after all. This report was thoroughly debunked a few weeks later, by Dr. Henry Cole, the expert retained by the Stop Costco Gas Coalition. Dr. Cole is an eminent air quality meteorologist who helped establish EPA's models for predicting air pollution levels. The debunking must have been effective because it prompted Costco's lawyers to introduce yet another Sullivan report, this one using yet another methodology. 
      The OZAH Hearings have now reached the "Rebuttal' phase, at which point the Applicant (Costco) is allowed to attempt to rebut the arguments of the Opposition (KHCA, SCGC, KVCA) as to the failure of Costco to meet 'the burden of proof'.  Having chosen only to attempt to rebut Opposition arguments about traffic and aiur quality, Costco finds itself attempting a rebuttal using the testimony of 'experts' whose 'expertise' have been called into question.
      Direct and cross examination of Mr. Guckert and Mr. Sullivan, Costco's two mathematically erring science experts, will resume on Tuesday, April 1, appropriately enough, at the 2d floor hearing room in the County Council Building. 
     Said Danila Sheveiko, who lives with his family in the home nearest to the Costco station, "They think they can wear us down with high paid experts and endless reports. That's their biggest miscalculation." 
L.J. Silverman, 3/13/14
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OZAH HEARING OF TUESDAY, March 11; transcript available here.
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The Hearing Scheduled for March 3 was cancelled.
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OZAH HEARING OF TUESDAY, February 25; transcript is available here.
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OZAH HEARING OF MONDAY, February 24; transcript is available here.
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NEW COALITION FORMED
The Mega Gas Station Setback Coalition (MGSSC) has been formed to pursue the goal (objective #2 on the SCGC HOME page) of getting statewide legislation to establish a protective setback (buffer) between any mega gas station (new or created by expansion of an existing gas station) and homes, schools, playgrounds and other sensitive land uses.  The MGSSC is not involved in the hearings regarding S-2863.  For more information, see the website at www.megagassetback.org.  Members of SCGC who are interested in protecting other neighborhoods - throughout the State of Maryland - from the negative impacts of a mega gas station are encouraged to join the new coalition.  To view an Email, sent by the Chair, informing SCGC members of the MGSSC and inviting them to join the new coalition, click here.
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OZAH HEARING OF MONDAY, February 10; transcript is available here.
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Costco Gas Health Argument Unraveled
Day 25 of OZAH hearings on special exception for Wheaton Costco gas station

Nearly 200 hours into the legal proceedings started way back on April 26th, 2013, community's opposition case is reaching a crescendo after Costco Wholesale - the nation's fourth largest retailer - took eight months presenting their case-in-chief to build a gas station, slated to be the busiest in Montgomery County, a mere 118 feet from single-family residences in Wheaton, MD.
 
The Feb. 10th hearing day will focus on testimony, cross-examination, and re-direct of Dr. Patrick N. Breysse - one of the nation's leading authorities on health effects of air pollution.  Time permitting, the hearing will also feature testimony, by Donna R. Savage, on Costco's failure to conform to the Wheaton Sector Plan.

There are four hearings scheduled through the end of February with more likely to come.  Once the hearings are over, the OZAH County Hearing Examiner will prepare a report on the findings of fact which the County Board of Appeals will use to make the actual decision.
 
In 2013, OZAH's resources and time were spent on 38 hearings, out of them 23 were Costco gas - over 60% of the entire workload.
Danila Sheveiko, 9 February 2014
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OZAH HEARING of Friday, January 10; transcript is available here.
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OZAH HEARING of Friday, December 6; transcript is available here.
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OZAH HEARING of Thursday, December 5; transcript is available here.
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Costco Gas Hearings To Set County Record?
Big-box retailer's bid to sell gas in Wheaton vying for longest special exception case in Montgomery County's history.
 
With two more days of hearings set for Dec. 5th & 6th, community members are ready to spend another holiday season – their fourth to date – doing battle against Costco’s application for a gas station in Wheaton, MD.  The proceedings before the Hearing Examiner for the Office of Zoning & Administrative Hearings have already gone through 22 days of testimony since April 26th, as the big-box retailer's application has been vigorously opposed by a coalition of residents, civic associations, and environmental groups.  With more hearing dates being scheduled for January and February, this special exception is now one of the longest-running in Montgomery County history, with the chance to rival the record 34 days spent on the Suburban Hospital expansion project.
 
If approved, the Costco gas station would break another record – it would be by far the busiest fueling station in Montgomery County – projected to sell 12,000,000 gallons of gasoline annually a mere 118 feet away single-family residences, 357 feet from an outdoor community swimming pool, and 876 feet from the Stephen Knolls School, which serves the County’s most medically fragile children with special needs, including mechanical ventilators and oxygen tanks.
 
"That's why community opposition is determined to go the full twelve rounds with America's fourth largest retailer," says Karen Cordry, President of Kensington Heights Civic Association.
 
Hopes of a quick victory were high in August after a Kensington Heights resident discovered a math error in Costco's calculations that underestimated background concentrations for one group of pollutants by 350%.  The high hopes were dashed later in the fall, however, as the Hearing Examiner denied the opposition’s summary judgment & sham affidavit motions and allowed Costco’s expert to go back and change his entire model to reduce the numbers.  The residents had no choice but to file a formal note of protest and continue with the case.
 
After Costco’s science expert admitted under oath that he had divided when he should have multiplied in calculating nitrogen oxide levels, the community had hoped that Costco would have decided this was a good time to pull back.  Instead, they took the opposite approach – if at first you don’t succeed, just change your facts,” said Larry J. Silverman, Esq., environmental adviser to the Stop Costco Gas Coalition.
 
"With each day of hearings costing the community thousands in fees and expenses, it's aggravating to see that Costco can change its own air quality model because it doesn’t like the results," said Danila Sheveiko, KHCA representative to the Stop Costco Gas Coalition, adding: "To make matters worse, Costco is not required to provide full disclosure of their results, so it’s cherry-picking only the numbers it wants us to see.”
 
Despite years of bureaucratic and political ups & downs, community spirit remains high as echoed by Pat Mulready, a representative from the Coalition to Save Kensington:  "The merits of our case are undeniable, so all we can do is keep faith in the system and keep raising money!  Entering our fifth year of committed opposition, our case is stronger than ever.
 
On tap for the Dec. 5th & 6th hearings is the opposition’s air quality expert, Dr. Henry S. Cole, former chief, Air Quality Model Application Section, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Hearings are open to the public, run all day starting at 9:30am, with a break for lunch.
Danila Sheveiko, 4 December, 2013
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OZAH HEARING of Thursday, November 21; transcript is available here.
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OZAH HEARING of Tuesday, November 19; transcript is available here.
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OZAH HEARING of Thursday, November 14; transcript is available here.
This is to announce that the current webmaster is reducing his efforts to maintain this website.  He will continue to function as a member of the Coordinating Committee, appearing at OZAH hearings, etc.  But much of the work needed to add to this website will be taken over by other members of the Coordinating Committee on an ad hoc, case by case basis.  The webmaster is in the process of setting up a new website, focussing on SCGC efforts to get legislation passed - at the State level - so that other communities are not forced to fight the sort of asymmetric battle that SCGC and KHCA have been involved in for so long.  When that new website is "open", a link to it will be provided on the HOME page of this website.
Webmaster, 14 November, 2013.
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OZAH Hearing of Monday, October 28 has been cancelled.
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OZAH Hearing of Thursday, October 24; transcript is available here.
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OZAH Hearing of Monday, October 21; transcript is available here.
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OZAH Hearing of Thursday, October 17; transcript is available here.
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OZAH Hearing of Monday, September 23, 2013; transcript available here..
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OZAH Hearing of Friday, September 20, 2013; transcript available here.
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OZAH Hearing of Monday, September 16, 2013; transcript available here.
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COMMENT/QUESTION
- Costco's air pollution expert, David Sullivan, has been telling all who would listen for several years now that air pollution would present no problems when the proposed mega gas station is built. Trust my math, he said. Too much effort has been spent on the air quality issue, he said, a case of overkill. It now turns out that his conclusions were based in large part on a mathematical error. In deriving his reassuring numbers the Costco expert divided instead of multiplying. When the error was corrected, the expert's own numbers proved that the gas station would cause a violation of health standards.
- So of course when the mistake was revealed, the expert, who has received about $400,000 from Costco for his participation in this case, developed a new method and approach for analyzing the issue. 
- Not so fast, said citizens opposing the siting of the gas station so close to homes, recreational areas and a school. Through the attorney for KHCA, Michele Rosenfeld, the citizen opponents filed an extraordinary motion with zoning authorities asking that Costco's application for a special exception be summarily denied. In effect, the motion if granted would prevent Costco from moving forward on its plans to build the proposed mega station. 
- The issue before the Board of Zoning Appeals is whether Costco should be permitted to change the scientific analysis that it fought so hard for just because the approach it fought for turns out to prove the case being made by citizen opponents. At stake is the integrity of the zoning process. How many times can witnesses change their story before they lose all credibility?
Larry Silverman, 10 September, 2013
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OZAH Hearing of Monday, September 9, 2013; transcript is available here.
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CLARIFICATION
Please note that this "update" is a personal comment; it has not been submitted to anyone on the SCGC Coordinating Committee for approval.
Those of you who have been reading these updates (and the section of the website in which filings are posted) may have been puzzled by the decision, reached in early August, not to post any more brief reports on the OZAH hearings.  You may have also wondered about the decision (of the same date) to put on hold efforts to update the posting of links to OZAH exhibits.  Both decisions were reached for essentially the same reasons.
1.  The effort had become problematic, not because it was so demanding, but because of a growing concern about the Special Exception process: to paraphrase an old fashioned adage, it was no longer clear that "the game was worth the candle".
2.  It was becoming more difficult to post "neutral reports" on the hearings, both because others still questioned my position on this (see the updates of 12 May and 21 May, 2013) and because a subtle shift in the tenor of the hearings suggested that the applicant's "case-in-chief" was loosing ground. [This is perhaps reflected in the increasing number of exhibits, most of which were being filed by the applicant.]
Hence the decisions (a) to simply post transcripts of the hearings as they become available and (b) to simply post the list of exhibits that are supplied by OZAH at the start of each hearing.  Because this website is - after all - the Coalition website, I will continue to post comments by other members of the coordinating committee, with the hope that they will reflect the concerns expressed in my earlier comments (of 12 May and 21 May).
Webmaster, 9 September, 2013
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OZAH Hearing of Friday, August 2, 2013; transcript available here.
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OZAH Hearing of Wednesday, July 31, 2013; transcript available here.

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OZAH Hearing of Tuesday, July 30, 2013; transcript available here.
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NOTICE
Effective August 9, 2013, updates on OZAH Hearings will simply include a link to the transcript of the proceedings, once the transcript becomes available.
Webmaster
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OZAH HEARING OF JULY 11 HAS BEEN CANCELLED
The next Hearing on S-2863 will be on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 9:30 AM in the second floor OZAH/Board of Appeals Hearing room of the County Council Office Building.
Webmaster, 10 July, 2013

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The transcript of the hearing of Wednesday, July 8 is available here.
OZAH hearing of Monday, July 8, 2013
   The eigth hearing before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the second floor BOA/OZAH hearing room of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 2:15 PM.  Mr. Grossman discussed a few procedural matters, including the ongoing exchange of position papers as to the pedestrian path, now being studied by Planning Staff.  There was also discussion of additional hearing dates in September (4) and October (2); these dates will not become a matter of record until all parties have submitted proposals and Mr. Grossman has ruled.  A number of other procedural matters were discussed but were either not "decided" or our records are incomplete.
  The list of exhibits on record with the OZAH office prior to the start of the hearing is available here;  several additional exhibits were added during the course of the day and we will post an updated exhibit list when it becomes available
   The rest of the morning was devoted to continuing the cross examination of Costco's Environmental Expert, Mr. David Sullivan, by Ms. Michele Rosenfeld (Counsel for KHCA).  This continued until the lunch break.  After the lunch break the proceedings were interrupted because of the sudden illness of one of the Parties at the Counsel table.  After a brief discussion of the options, Mr. Grossman ruled that the hearing would end for the day, with the hope the proceeding could be continued at the next scheduled, July 11.
Webmaster, 20 July 12, 2013
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The transcript of the hearing of Wednesday, June 19 is available here.
OZAH hearing of Wednesday, June 19, 2013
   The seventh hearing before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the seventh floor conference room of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 5:10 PM.  Mr. Grossman discussed a few procedural matters, one being Email exchange between his office and Planning Staff regarding the  revised plans had been referred back to the staff of the Planning Board.
  The list of exhibits on record with the OZAH office prior to the start of the hearing is available here;  several additional exhibits were added during the course of the day and we will post an updated exhibit list when it becomes available
   The rest of the morning was devoted to finishing the direct examination of Costco's Environmental Expert, Mr. David Sullivan.  This had begun on June 17 and was conducted Mr. Michael Goecke.  The direct examination was completed by 1:00.  After the lunch break, cross-examination of Mr. Sullivan began.  Mr. Sullivan was first cross examined by Mr. Larry Silverman, Esq. (for the SCGC) and then by Ms. Michele Rosenfeld (Counsel for KHCA).  Ms. Rosenfeld's cross examination will continue at the next hearing, which is scheduled for July 8, in the second floor hearing room of the Montgomery County Council office building.
  We wish to restate that all interested citizens are encouraged to participate in these hearings.  Because the process is constructed so as to gather relevant factual information, Mr. Grossman had repeatedly spoken as to the importance of citizen participation - and has indicated that his office will accept inquiries about hearing dates, the relevant rules of procedure, etc.  We have posted a statement about citizen participation near the top of the HOME page of this website.
Webmaster, 20 June 2013
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The transcript of the hearing of Monday, June 17 is available here.
OZAH hearing of Monday, June 17, 2013
   The sixth hearing before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the second floor hearing room of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 4:55 PM.  Mr. Grossman discussed a number of procedural matters.  One was that, because Costco had filed revisions to its site plan, at least some of which were considered by the opposition to be substantial, the revised plans had been referred back to the staff of the Planning Board.  The planning staff has been asked to evaluate the revised plan in order to assess whether the revisions raise concerns for the planning staff, and to provide advice to the Planning Board as to whether the Planning Board may wish to consider holding additional hearing(s) on S-2863.  Planning Staff has already asked for additional information on the revised plan.  Presumably some of these issues will be resolved over the next few weeks.
  The list of exhibits on record with the OZAH office prior to the start of the hearing is available here;  several additional exhibits were added during the course of the day and we will post an updated exhibit list when it becomes available
   The rest of the morning was devoted to cross-examination of Mr. Steven Gang (Land Planning Expert).  Counsel for KHCA finished conducting an extensive cross-examination that had begun at the end of the hearing of June 4.  Once the KHCA cross-examination was completed, briefer cross examinations were conducted by Dr. Mark Adelman (for the SCGC) and Ms. Eleanor Duckett (for the Kensington View Civic Association - KVCA).  Re-direct and re-cross were brief and completed before the lunch break.  After the lunch break, Costco called its Environmental Expert, Mr. David Sullivan.  The direct examination of Mr. Sullivan was conducted by Mr. Michael Goecke.  Mr. Sullivan began by explaining the scope of his studies, using a PowerPoint presentation, somewhat more than half of which was covered before the end of the day's hearing.  The direct examination of Mr. Sullivan will continue at the hearing of June 19, which is to be held in the seventh floor County Council conference room.
Webmaster, 18 June 2013
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The transcript of the hearing of Tuesday, June 4 is available here.
OZAH hearing of Tuesday June 4, 2013
   The fifth hearing before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the second floor hearing room of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 4:45 PM.  Mr. Grossman discussed a number of procedural matters.  [Our notes are incomplete, hence we may have the items out of sequence, and may be omitting one or two.]  It was confirmed that eight additional hearings have been scheduled (see recent update immediately preceding this one).  In a related matter, at the end of the meeting, Counsel for the applicant raised the possibility that even more additinional hearings may be required.  [The Oppostion has not made any suggestions that additional hearings are needed.]  There was no discussion of the question of a site visit.  There are several motions before the Hearing Examiner, including two by KHCA to suspend the hearings until certain procedural questions are clarified.  No decision has been made yet.  Applicant has not yet  submitted revisions of the site plan.  Opposition continues to object to continuing testimony/cross-examination of witnesses absent such final site plan revision filings.  These may need to be reviewed by Planning Staff and the Planning Board.
The list of exhibits on record with the OZAH office prior to the start of the hearing is available here;  several additional exhibits were added during the course of the day and we will post an updated exhibit list when it becomes available. 
   The Exhibit List for these hearings is expanding at each hearing.  Furthermore the procedures by which the OZAH office numbers the various submissions (both those that were posted to this website prior the first hearing and those exhibits being entered into the list as the hearings proceed) is such that it is very difficult for most people to determine which item in the OZAH Exhibit List corresponds to a filing made previously.  We continue to work on an entirely new listing of all filings, identified by the OZAH exhibit number and linked to the filing previously posted to our website.  This is in progress, and as we obtain digital versions of all new filings, we will also post those.  Thus our section listing the various filings (available here) is under reconstruction.  We hope to have this complete by the start of the next hearing (June 17) but doubt we can accomplish the task completely, so those interested are requested to be patient!
   The remainder of the day was devoted to the testimony of Mr. Wes Guckert (The Traffic Group) appearing again to complete his testimony as to supplementary Traffic Data collected on Saturday, April 27, 2013, and testimony of Mr. Stephen Gang, Land Use Planning.  Mr Guckert was briefly cross examined by Ms. Rosenfeld (Counsel for KHCA) on a number of questions related to the meaning of such technical terms as CLV and LOS, the purpose of the supplementary studies (of April 27) and their relationship to the original Traffic Impact Analiysis (apparently none), and details of how the vehicular movement counts were actually determined.  In the course of the cross examination Mr. Guckert referred to the calculations of CLV as being an arithmetic process, which seems to be in contrast to his earlier statements that the CLV calculation is somewhat complex.  The Stop Costco Gas Coalition (represented at Counsel table by Larry J. Silverman, Esq. and Dr. Mark Adelman, did not cross examine Mr. Guckert. 
The remainder of the day was devoted to the testimony of Mr. Gang, who was guided through his testimony (the legal term is "direct examination") by Ms. Pat Harris (Counsel for Costco).  During the course of the direct examination of Mr. Gang a number of documents were distributed that had not previously been proffered.  The opposition objected.  Direct examination continued, and Mr. Gang will return on June 17 to complete testify as to the points to which objections were made.
  Cross-examination of Mr. Gang (by Ms. Rosenfeld) began late in the afternoon.    At this point Counsel table had a large number of Exhibits (of various sizes) on it and the relevance/admissibility/status of many was not clear to us.  The hearing was adjourned at about 4:45 PM.
  The OZAH Rules of Procedure (available here) clarify some of the terminology, but not all.  We are attempting to find a more complete source.  This may be of some value to citizens who come to a hearing wishing to ask questions - see below - but do not understand the rules of procedure and therefore, to some extent, disrupt the process.]
   The digital version of the entire transcript of the hearing will be posted to the OZAH website approximately 10 days after each hearing and we will post it once it becomes available.
   Throughout these hearings Mr. Grossman has made it clear that individuals, even those who are not Parties of Record in this matter, are welcome to attend the hearings, ask questions of witnesses (with certain restrictions), and even to testify - or indicate at which upcoming hearing they would like to testify.  He has now indicated that he will set aside a portion of the hearing on July 31 to accommodate individuals wishing to testify. We urge citizens who have specific questions/concerns in this matter but have not already contacted us (or the OZAH offices) to do so now. 
Webmaster, 6 June 2013
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Additional Hearing Dates
Hearings for the ongoing process regarding OZAH Case No: S-2863 have again been extended.  In addition to the hearing of June 4 (update will be posted ASAP), the hearings now scheduled are:  Monday, June 17, Wednesday, June 19, Monday, July 8, Thursday, July 11, Tuesday, July 30, Wednesday, July 31, and Friday, August 2.  There has been some preliminary discussion, by Counsel for the Applicant (Costco), of the possible need for hearings in addition to those listed above.
Webmaster, 6 June 2013
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The transcript of the hearing of Monday, May 23 is available here.
OZAH hearing of Thursday, May 23, 2013
   The fourth hearing before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the second floor hearing room of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 5:25 PM.  Mr. Grossman was returning after an absence of some days due to 'health matters'.  In his opening remarks he referred to the fact that his absence had necessitated the cancellation of three hearings (May 14, 17 and 20).  All participants expressed their pleasure that he was back and that he appeared to be in good health.  Mr. Grossman then discussed a number of procedural matters.  [Our notes are incomplete, hence we may have the items out of sequence, and may be omitting one or two.]  There was discussion of scheduling some additional hearings, both to make up for the three that had been cancelled, and to accommodate to the reality that the process is not proceeding as rapidly as all had hoped and that more than eight hearings will, apparently, be required. Provisional agreement was reached on dates for some seven additional hearings (beyond the one scheduled for June 4), extending into early August, but we will not post those dates until Mr. Grossman has confirmed them.  Regarding the question of a site visit, Mr. Grossman indicated that he is not inclined to conduct a site visit (as proposed by the applicant and the opposition) - for a number of reasons; however, he will continue to consider the matter and will soon issue a ruling as to whether he will/will not conduct such a site visit.  Mr. Grossman denied Costco's motion objecting to a large number of filings by the Coalition and by Members of KHCA. There are several other motions before the Hearing Examiner, including two by KHCA to suspend the hearings until certain procedural questions are clarified.  It appeared that Mr. Grossman was inclined to deny those motions, but we are not certain that he has formally denied them.  We have no notes on the other pending notions (and may in fact be incorrect as to there actually being other motions).
The list of exhibits on record with the OZAH office prior to the start of the hearing is available here;  several additional exhibits were added during the course of the day and we will post an updated exhibit list when it becomes available. 
   The Exhibit List for these hearings is expanding at each hearing.  Furthermore the procedures by which the OZAH office numbers the various submissions (both those that were posted to this website prior the first hearing and those exhibits being entered into the list as the hearings proceed) is such that it is very difficult for most people to determine which item in the OZAH Exhibit List corresponds to a filing made previously.  We continue to work on an entirely new listing of all filings, identified by the OZAH exhibit number and linked to the filing previously posted to our website.  This is in progress, and as we obtain digital versions of all new filings, we will also post those.  Thus our section listing the various filings (available here) is under reconstruction.  We hope to have this complete by the start of the next hearing (June 14) but are not certain we can accomplish the task completely, so those interested are requested to be patient!
   The remainder of the day was devoted to the testimony of Mr. Tim Hurlocher (Director of Gasoline Operations for Costco Wholesale),  and Mr. Wes Guckert (The Traffic Group) appearing again to begin his testimony as to suuplementary Traffic Data collected on Saturday, April 27, 2013.  Mr. Hurlocher was guided through his testimony (the legal term is "direct examination" by Ms. Pat Harris (Counsel for Costco) and then cross-examined by Ms. Michele Rosenfeld (Counsel for KHCA), followed Larry Silverman, Esq. (for the SCGC).   During the redirect examination (and/or the re-cross examination - our notes are incomplete) a procedural issue arose and the final portion of Mr. Hurlocher's testimony was briefly interrupted.  Mr. Gucker's testimony began around 4:40.  Some procedural questions raised by the SCGC were deferred.  The direct examination was completed, but the cross examination phase was deferred until the next hearing.  The next hearing will be Tuesday, June 4; we are at this point not certain of the hearing room that will be used, nor the sequence of the witnesses who will testify (once Mr. Gucker's testimony is completed).
   The digital version of the entire transcript of the hearing will be posted to the OZAH website approximately 10 days after each hearing and we will post it once it becomes available.
   Throughout these hearings Mr. Grossman has made it clear that individuals, even those who are not Parties of Record in this matter, are welcome to attend the hearings, ask questions of witnesses (with certain restrictions), and even to testify - or indicate at which upcoming hearing they would like to testify.  He indicated that he will be trying to set aside a hearing date (or at least a portion of a day) to accommodate individuals wishing to testify. We urge citizens who have specific questions/concerns in this matter but have not already contacted us (or the OZAH offices) to do so now.
Webmaster, 5/25/13
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CLARIFICATION: A personal and cautionary note
On May 12 I posted a note regarding this topic.  It was a PERSONAL opinion.  It did NOT reflect a policy decision by the SCGC; in fact we have been so busy preparing for the various hearings before the Hearing Examiner that we have not even met in some time.  So we have taken NO vote on this matter.
A member of the SCGC has contacted me regarding my posting, saying, in essence that I seemed to be 'ordering' members to refrain from politically oriented activism.  I am not.  Speaking as an individual, I am urging our members to refrain.  To me there is a very big difference between ordering and urging.
The member who contacted me informed me that the Montgomery County Government has a website (available here) that is sponsoring a 'dialogue' about the gas station issue.  That member feels the website is an attempt to undermine the Special Exception process.  Whether or not I agree with that member is not relevant.  I am expressing my personal opinion about the need to refrain from political discourse on this matter at this time.
I have no right to tell others what they should/should not do.  Nor am I doing so.
Webmaster, 21 May 2013
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Hearings postponed
Due to a medical emergency (we have no details) the hearings scheduled for May 14, May 17 and May 20 have been cancelled.  Hearings are (tentatively) scheduled to resume on May 23, but we have no details at this time as to how the actual sequence of the hearings will be affected.
Webmaster, 13 May 2013; updated 15 May, 2013
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A personal and cautionary note
In the months leading up to the now on-going hearings before OZAH, we were very active in the public effort to convince others to support the Coalition.  Once the hearings commenced, we ceased all such efforts.  I believe it is NOT appropriate to attempt to sway public opinion while the hearings are in progress.  I believe that any such effort, on the part of any member of the Coalition is inappropriate.  Our updates about each hearing are written so as to be strictly factual.  We have an obligation to our members: to keep them informed.  But we also have an obligation, to the court, to make sure that we do NOTHING that can be viewed as an attempt to influence the court decision, other than by our testimony in the OZAH proceedings.  Hence our updates contain NO hint of opinion.  If our members wish to understand what is occurring during the hearings, they can read the recent updates.  Those have references (with links) to the transcripts of the hearings.  We are working to update the listing of OZAH  exhibits available here.  Beyond that, any member of the Coalition is free to attend one of the hearings.  The Hearing Examiner has said so himself and has repeatedly shown by his words and actions that he values public participation and input.
PLEASE do not engage in public dialogue (blog postings, Email campaigns, public 'chat' rooms, etc.), while the hearings are in progress.  To do so is, in my view, to undermine a basic premise of our legal system.  Thank you.
Webmaster, 12 May 2013
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The transcript of the hearing of Monday, May 6 is available here.
OZAH hearing of Monday, May 6, 2013
The third of the eight scheduled hearings before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the ground floor auditorium of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 4:55 PM.  Mr. Grossman's opening remarks included a number of procedural matters.  Regarding the question of a site visit, all parties are working to provide him with a consensus statement of the parameters of such a site visit, after which he will consider the matter and issue a ruling as to whether he will/will not conduct such a site visit.  There was discussion of a number additional filings, including one by Costco objecting to a large number of filings by the Coalition and by Members of KHCA.  The intent of the objections appears to be to prevent having the filings considered valid and to raise the question of whether those who authored the filings are qualified (in the legal sense) to testify on the matters discussed in the filings.  We are working to prepare a vigorous challenge to each of the objections.
The list of exhibits on record with the OZAH office prior to the start of the hearing is available here; several additional exhibits were added during the course of the day and we will post an updated exhibit list when it becomes available.  The Exhibit List for these hearings is expanding at each hearing.  Furthermore the procedures by which the OZAH office numbers the various submissions (both those that were posted to this website prior the first hearing and those exhibits being entered into the list as the hearings proceed) is such that it is very difficult for most people to determine which item in the OZAH Exhibit List corresponds to a filing made previously.  We have decided to create an entirely new listing of all filings, identified by the OZAH exhibit number and linked to the filing previously posted to our website.  This is now in progress, and as we obtain digital versions of all new filings, we will also post those.  Thus our section listing the various filings (available here) is under reconstruction.  We hope to have this complete by the start of the next hearing (May 14) but are not certain we can accomplish the task completely, so those interested are requested to be patient!
The remainder of the day was devoted to the testimony of Mr. Ken Agliata (Westfield Corporation),  Mr. Wes Guckert (The Traffic Group) appearing again to complete his testimony as to the Traffic Impact Analysis submitted by the applicatant, Mr. Daniel Goalwin testifying on the gas station infrastructure (including underground tanks), Mr. Wayne Tucker testifying on geotechnical tests, and Ms. Gina Volpicelli testifying on some aspects of lighting and the screen/wall/fence.  Because a portion of the Engineering report was either not filed (or has somehow been mis-labelled), Mr. Tucker is to reappear to complete his testimony on May 14.  To the extent possible, all witnesses were guided through their testimonies by Ms. Pat Harris (Counsel for Costco) and then cross-examined by either Larry Silverman, Esq. or Dr. Mark Adelman (for the SCGC), followed by Ms. Michele Rosenfeld (Counsel for KHCA).   The next hearing will be Tuesday, May 14 in the same auditorium; we are at this point not certain of the sequence of the witnesses who will testify.
The digital version of the entire transcript of the previous hearing (May 1, 2013) are not yet available to us; such transcripts are expected to be posted to the OZAH website approximately 10 days after each hearing and we will post those transcripts as they become available.
Throughout these hearings Mr. Grossman has made it clear that individuals, even those who are not Parties of Record in this matter, are welcome to attend the hearings, ask questions of witnesses (with certain restrictions), and even to testify - or indicate at which upcoming hearing they would like to testify.  We urge citizens who have specific questions/concerns in this matter but have not already contacted us (or the OZAH offices) to do so now.
Webmaster, 5/7/13
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The transcript of the hearing of Wednesday, May 1 is available here.
OZAH hearing of Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The second of the eight scheduled hearings before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the ground floor auditorium of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 5:00 PM.  We will post an updated exhibit list as soon as possible.  Mr. Grossman's opening remarks included a number of procedural matters, including the request of both the applicant and the opposition groups that he conduct a site visit.  He asked all parties to provide him with a consensus statement of the parameters of such a site visit, after which he will consider the matter and issue a ruling as to whether he will/will not conduct such a site visit.  The remainder of the day was devoted to the testimony of Mr. Wes Guckert (The Traffic Group) as to the Traffic Impact Analysis submitted by the applicatant.  Mr. Guckert was then cross-examined by a member of the SCGC and the by the Counsel for KHCA.  Applicant's Counsel will conduct the re-direct examination of Mr. Guckert  at the third hearing (Monday, May 6), before/after which testimony of other witnesses for the Applicant will take place. 
The digital version of the entire transcript of the previous hearing (April 26, 2013) is not yet available to us; such transcripts are expected to be posted to the OZAH website approximately 10 days after each hearing and we will post those transcripts as they become available.
Throughout these hearings Mr. Grossman has made it clear that individuals, even those who are not Parties of Record in this matter, are welcome to attend the hearings, ask questions of witnesses (with certain restrictions), and even to testify - or indicate at which upcoming hearing they would like to testify.  We urge citizens who have specific questions/concerns in this matter but have not already contacted us (or the OZAH offices) to do so now.
Webmaster, 5/2/13
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The transcript of the hearing of Friday April 26 is now available here.
OZAH hearing of Friday, April 26
The first of the eight scheduled hearings before the OZAH Hearing Examiner, Mr. Martin Grossman, took place in the ground floor auditorium of the Montgomery County Council office building.  The hearing began at 9:30 AM and ended at approximately 5:00 PM.  The list of exhibits on record with the OZAH office prior to the start of the hearing is available here; several additional exhibits were added during the course of the day and we will post an updated exhibit list when it becomes available.  In his opening remarks, describing the general process of the hearings, Mr. Grossman included a series of very specific questions that he wishes applicant or/and opposition to answer.  His 20 questions (many are multi-part and very detailed) are available here.  The hearing then continued with opening statements by the Counsels for the applicant and for Kensington Heights Civic Association (KHCA), as well as the opening statement of the Stop Costco Gas Coalition, made by our Chair and available here.  [The opening statement of the Counsel for KHCA is available here.  The opening statement of the Counsel for Costco is not yet available to us; however a digital version of the entire transcript of each day's hearings is expected to be posted to the OZAH website approximately 10 days after each hearing and we will post those transcripts as they become available.]  The remainder of the hearing was devoted to the testimony of Costco's fiirst two witnesses - Mr. Eric Brann (of Costco) and Mr. Dan Duke (who testified as to the engineering plans/report filed by the applicant.  After each witness testified, each was questioned by Counsel for KHCA and by Mr. Larry J. Silverman, Esq., who is a member of the Coalition's Coordinating Committee and represents us at the Counsel table in these hearings.  We will post a synopsis, similar to this one, after each of the upcoming hearings.  The next hearing will be on Wednesday, May 1. 
Throughout the hearing Mr. Grossman made it clear that individuals, even those who are not Parties of Record in this matter, are welcome to attend the hearings, ask questions of witnesses (with certain restrictions), and even to testify - or indicate at which upcoming hearing they would like to testify.  We urge citizens who have specific questions/concerns in this matter but have not already contacted us (or the OZAH offices) to do so now.
Webmaster, 4/27/13
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Hearings Begin This Friday!
The first of the OZAH Hearings on S-2863 will be on Friday, April 26 (beginning at 9:30 AM) in the main County Council hearing room.  The tentative dates of subsequent hearings were posted below (update of 6 March, 2013).  We will post details of the agenda items for each hearing date as such details become available.  Individuals who wish to testify at one of the hearings can sign up by contacting the OZAH office or by appearing at the hearing(s).  If you wish to testify on behalf of the Stop Costco Gas Coalition, please contact the Chair (chair@stopcostcogas.org).
The SCGC is still in need of financial contributions; please go to our DONATE page if you can help us!
We also need help in monitoring traffic at the Mall, now that the Costco store has opened.  If you are willing to help us (a one hour time block is required and we can provide detailed instructions), please contact the Chair.
Webmaster, 4/22/13
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Filings submitted, time for some FUNdraising!
We have submitted our packet to the OZAH Hearing Examiner and are now working - as time permits - on our actual testimonies (to begin in late April and continue through June).  Now we have time for some FUN and for some very important fundraising.  For information on an upcoming FUNdraising event, please click here.
Webmaster, 3/27/13
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Legislation blocked, pulled
 The legislation we had pending in Annapolis (to establish a 1000 foot buffer between mega gas stations and sensitive land uses) will not be passed this session.  HB 835 was given an unfavorable report by the House Economic Matters Committee and, after discussion with legislative staff, we have asked that SB 948 be withdrawn.  The legislation was blocked by lobbying efforts (including those of County Executive Leggett) that convinced legislators that the bill was directed at the Westfield/Costco project.  Our attempts to get legislators to recognize this argument as specious got us nowhere, so we agreed with the recommendation to pull the bill from further consideration.  We will try again next year, by which time the Westfield/Costco issue will have been resolved.  We urge all of our members to said Emails to Delegates Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutierrez, and Jeff Waldstreicher, as well as to Senator Rich Madaleno, thanking them for their efforts on behalf of citizens of Maryland who are concerned about the health risks associated with mega gas stations.
Abigail B. Adelman, 12 March 2013
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OZAH Hearings Rescheduled
The OZAH Hearing Examiner has rescheduled the Hearings on Costco's application (S-2863).  The previous schedule called for four hearings, on March 11, 15, 18, and 22.  The new schedule calls for eight hearings, commencing on April 26, with the subsequent hearings on May 1, May 6, May 14, May 17, May 20, May 23 and June 4.  We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that Costco has failed to meet its burden of proof as to the various elements of the County Code that apply to its application.
[Subsequent to this posting, Wheaton Patch coverage appeared here.]
Webmaster, 6 March 2013
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Planning Board recommends Denial of Costco's Application
After a hearing that ran from 4:30 PM until nearly 10:00 PM, the Planning Board voted to recommend denial of Costco's Special Exception application (S-2863).  This is an important positive result for opponents of S-2863; but it is not the "final victory".  That can only occur if/when the Hearing Examiner also recommends denial and the Board of Appeals upholds his recommendation.  Hence the issue will likely not be decided until sometime in late April (or perhaps May).
Webmaster, 3/1/13
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Sierra Club Opposes Costco Request for Special Exception
The Sierra Club Montgomery County Group has sent a letter to the Planning Board objecting to Costco's proposed gas station because they believe it "will pose serious environmental and social risks to the residents nearby."  The Sierra Club urges that S-2863 be denied.  The entire letter is available here.
Karen Cordry, 2/23/13
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Friends of Sligo Creek Defend the Wheaton Forested Green Buffer
Friends of Sligo Creek have sent a very strongly worded letter to the Planning Commission reinforcing our position (and that of several other environmental groups) that the Costco Gas Stattion proposal (S-2863) has used an invalid Forest Conservation Law exemption to circumvent a portion of the Code by which Special Exceptions must be evaluated.  The issue is not simply one of "saving a few trees".  If invalid exemptions are allowed to stand, our governing bodies are allowing a process that endangers the local watershed - and thus the Chesapeake Bay - to go forward.  If we are indeed a society governed by law, then each law must be fully enforced.
Friends of Sligo Creek are committed to restore to health the water quality, natural habitat, and ecological well-being of the Sligo Creek watershed by bringing neighbors together to build awareness, improve natural habitat, and protect our community's heritage.
Danila S. Sheveiko, 2/23/13
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Mr. Leggett Lobbies for Costco In Annapolis
Our County Executive continues to demonstrate that he cares more about the interests of corporations like Westfield and Costco than about the health of those who elected him.  His staff has actively lobbied State Delegates, urging them to vote against HB 835 (and SB 948?).  Even worse, his staff lied to at least some delegates by telling them that the County Council had been polled and agreed with Mr. Leggett's position on the legislation.  No such poll has been taken; at least one Councilmember strongly approves of HB 835.  Mr. Leggett continues to work for Costco, rather than the citizens whom he was elected to serve.  We invite Mr. Leggett to respond to our assertions - despite the fact that he continues to avoid responding to citizens who ask him to protect public health and quality of life.
Webmaster, 2/20/13
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Legislation Introduced in Annapolis
Since its creation, the SCGC has been committed to getting statewide legislation enacted, creating adequate buffer zones around proposed mega gas stations, so no other community would be forced to wage the kind of fight that the residents of Kensington Heights have been compelled to fight.  We are pleased to announce that such legislation has now been introduced into both the House (HB 835) and the Senate (SB 948) in Annaoplis.  We will be testifying on HB 835 in Annapolis on Feb. 21.
Webmaster, 2/19/13
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Planning Staff Recommends Denial!
The Planning Staff has recommended denial of Costco's application (S-2863).  The report is available here.  This is a very positive step.  But the staff report is not as broadly supportive of our position as we would have liked, so we are analyzing it in detail as part of our preparation for the Hearing (February 28, beginning at 4:00 PM) before the Planning Board
Webmaster, 2/16/13
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More Support for Our Position on the Forest Buffer Issue
The Rock Creek Conservancy has weighed in, asking the Planning Department to "rescind the Forest Conservation Law Exemption for the Costco Gas Station project and to require that Costco and Westfield file a Forest Conservation Plan for any future work that would affect Wheaton's green forest buffer."  Visit the RCC website here.
Webmaster, 13 February 2013
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Testimony Before the Montgomery County Board of Education 
In an effort to get the Board to weigh in on the health risks of Costco's proposed mega gas station to the students and staff of Stephen Knolls School, we made Public Comment before the Board today.  To see that testimony, click here.
Webmaster, 12 February 2013
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FOREST BUFFER CONSERVATION & WATERSHED PROTECTION
Our piece on this matter in the Wheaton Patch (here) has drawn considerable attention.  Although the Audubon Naturalist Society joined us in filing objections with the Planning Board (see our filings section), many people are not aware that Westfield/Costco are using an invalid exemption to justify not filing a Forest Conservation Plan.  This "allows" them to avoid regulations designed to protect our Watersheds.  If you wish to send an Email to the Planning Board and Planning Department, requesting an investigation of this matter, go to our TAKE ACTION page and scroll down to the section headed "Send An Email".
Webmaster, 7 February 2013
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Supplemental Filings Uploaded
Since its initial filings to OZAH, Costco has made three additional batches of filings (of which we are aware).  We have not had time to read all of these carefully, but a number of our members have requested that we upload them to our website.  We have now done so.  They are listed, by filing batch date and file name, at the very bottom of our Filings Section, available here.
Webmaster, 2 February 2013
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May We Post Your Letters?
The SCGC was established to provide the widest possible base for all who oppose Costco's effort to place a mega gas station in the southwest quadrant of Westfield's Wheaton Mall.  Now that all of our filings on S-2863 have been posted to this website (click here), we are reaching out to those who have also made filings, sent letters, etc.  We would very much like to post your "comments" here.  If you are willing to have us do so, please send them, via an Email indicating your permission for us to post them, to: webmaster@stopcostcogas.org.
Co-Chairs Abigail Adelman and Karen Cordry, 23 January, 2013
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All of Our Filings Are Now Posted
All of the filings we made to planning commission staff (opposing S-2863) are now posted to the filings section of this website.  The direct link (also at the top of the HOME page) is here.
Webmaster, 22 January, 2013
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Audubon Naturalist Society Supports the SCGC Position
We are pleased to announce that ANS has joined the other organizations who support the SCGC position.  ANS filed a statement with the planning commission staff arguing - as do we - that Costco is not entitled to use its "exemption" from filing a Forest Conservation Plan.  ANS also asserts that Costco's shoddy stormwater management system is endangering the stream valley buffer in the portion of Wheaton's Green Forest buffer that is immediately adjacent to the site where Costco proposes to build/operate its mega gas station. (Read it here.)
Webmaster, 19 January 2013
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Filing Deadline Met!
The SCGC Coordinating Committee (SCGC-CC) is pleased (and relieved) that we have met the January 15 deadline for filing formal rebuttals (of Costco's application documents) with park and planning staff.  These are filings that the staff will definitely consider as they review Costco's application (S-2863) and prepare a staff report for the Planning Board.  We are not at this point certain of the total number of filings (a number were being prepared by supporting groups/individuals) but we believe that in excess of a dozen filings were made.  Additional filings can be made (we have several in preparation) up until February 25 - in preparation for the February 28 hearing before the Planning Board - and we encourage our members to prepare such filings.  We will begin posting all filings to the filings section of this website (click here) in a few days (we need a rest!) and will continue to do so as we become aware of new ones.  We urge all members who are Parties of Record in this matter to make a filing on behalf of our shared goal.  Feel free to contact any member of the SCGC-CC to discuss what filings would be of value and for help in preparing them.
Webmaster, 15 January 2013
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Answering Your Questions
Several people have contacted us for information about submitting letters to Planning Commission staff.  It is our understanding that until Jan. 15th (the deadline) all comments should be addressed to:
 
Ms. Renee Kamen
Senior Planner, Development Revision Division
Montgomery County Planning Department
8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910
email: Renee.Kamen@mncppc-mc.org
with subject line of: Special Exception application S-2863, Costco gas station

We were not sure about how the January 15 deadline for filings with planning staff relates to letters sent by individuals, nor were we certain whether such letters must be signed, so we asked Ms Kamen for a clarification.  She informed us that "signed letters are for the hearing examiner.  They will not accept any unsigned letters or unsigned emails (but you could send a fax of the letter, which includes a signature.).  Individuals can continue submitting letters to the Planning Board up to 24-hours prior to the hearing.  They will be distributed to the Planning Board the day-of the planning board hearing."

Please refer to our BACKGROUND page for more information on the Hearing Examiner, the dates for various hearings, etc.

Webmaster, 9 January 2013
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Important Court Ruling
On January 4, 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a new and important ruling on the PM 2.5 regulations. See NRDC v. EPA. While the case is complex, the bottom line is that EPA must review, revise and reissue its rules on fine particulates. This is one more piece of evidence in a growing chain that Costco cannot meet the burden of proving that its proposed station will not endanger the health, safety and welfare of neighbors, employees and customers.
Larry Silverman, 7 January 2013
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More Filings From Costco
Costco has once again muddied the waters by filing a new CD, with several highly technical documents, some of which appear to contradict previous filings.  We will look at/evaluate these if/when time permits.  We will post the entire contents of the CD to the "filings" section [BACKGROUND page] when we have time.
Larry Silverman, 6 January 2013
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Motion Denied
On December 28 the Hearing Examiner denied our motion (see below) to reconsider the request that Hearings on S-2863 be delayed beyond the March dates now in effect.  The notice of this decision is posted on our BACKGROUND page under S-2863 filings.
Webmaster, 1 January, 2013
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Meetings with Planning Commission Staff
On January 2 the SCGC Coordinating Committee will begin a series of meetings with planning commission staff.  These will continue through January 15, at which time we will file all comments (and expert opinions) refuting points made by Costco in its initial application.  These meetings (and the filings) are planned to inform our efforts, and convince planning staff that they should advise the Planning Board to deny Costco's application.  If you wish to help us in these meetings and/or in the preparation of our various filings, please contact any member of the Coordinating Committee (see list with Email links on the JOIN, DONATE, MEMBERS page of this website).
Webmaster, 1 January 2013
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New Member of the Coordinating Committee
We are pleased to announce that the Committee to Save Kensington has joined our Coalition and that Pat Mulready has agreed to serve on our Coordinating Committee as the CSK representative.  CSK supported the process by which ZTA 12-07 was enacted and Pat  brings valuable experience and knowledge to our efforts.
Webmaster, 24 December 2012
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SE Timeline Available
We have posted a "timeline" for the SE process as it now stands.  It is available here and through a link on the BACKGROUND page.
Webmaster, 22 December 2012
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Motion Filed
We have filed a motion requesting that the Hearing Examiner reconsider his ruling of 12 December (see below).  The text of our motion is available here.
Webmaster, 19 December 2012
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S-2863 Filings and Mailings Are Being Posted!
We have created a point of access on our website to documents pertaining to S-2863.  It will take some time to fully populate this subdomain, but it already has the Hearing Examiner ruling mentioned below.  For access, click here.
Webmaster, 16 December 2012
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Hearing Dates Upheld
The OZAH Hearing Examiner on the Costco Special Exception application has ruled against those who opposed the March hearing dates as being unfair to citizens.  We will post his ruling once it has been received by Parties of Record.  Pending discussions with legal counsel, we will have no further comments about this ruling.  We will continue to prepare our submissions to Park and Planning and our testimonies at the various upcoming hearings.
Webmaster, 13 December 2012
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Civic Fed Supports the SCGC Position
At its December 3 general meeting, the Montgomery County Civic Federation passed a resolution supporting the SCGC positions opposing the proposed Costco mega gas station.  It also supports our assertion that holding the SE hearings in mid-March gives citizens too little time to prepare for those hearings.  The full text of the MCCF resolution is available on their website here.
Webmaster, 10 December 2012
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Controversy over scheduling of SE hearings
Since my previous post on this, it has become clear that Costco filed the paperwork for S-2863 sometime in mid-November.  The exact date is uncertain and there may not even be ONE date because it is still not clear what was filed when or where.  It is essentially impossible to determine who is responsible for what.  One thing seems clear:  the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings (OZAH) is insisting that the hearings on this application will be heard in mid-March.  Costco is insisting that this is fair.  Citizens (individually and as groups) are insisting that it is not and are requesting that the hearings be held in June (or later).  We will post as much of the documentation as we can, as soon as we are certain that we actually have the final versions of all the relevant filings.  If you care to read one citizen's take on how the system seems determined to force citizens to swallow a totally unacceptable timeframe, click here.
Webmaster, 10 December 2012
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WHAT IS GOING ON!!
Costco finally filed the papers required for a new Special Exception application.  Nearly a month later than was "expected".  But NO ONE can tell us anything about them!  And the message we are getting is that the hearings on the new SE will be held in March, on the dates set for the old SE application.  THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!  We all have lives to live.  We are not employed by Costco or the County.  Forcing the process to go forward with the old time schedule means that citizens are expected to jump up from the Thanksgiving table, put Holiday shopping on hold, and immediately start plowing through the mountain of paperwork.  Someone may think this is funny, but WE DON"T.  "... mad as hell and..."
Webmaster, 20 November 2012

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Costco Has Filed a New Special Exceptions Application
The new application has been assigned the number S-2863.  If you wish to file the form needed to be listed as a Part of Record, you can access it here.
Webmaster, 16 November 2012
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Has Costco Filed a New Special Exceptions Application?
Not yet, as of 11/13/12.  It is expected very soon, probably before the holiday season.  While not certain, it seems unlikely that Board of Appeals Hearings will occur in March, as was previously expected.  More likely, such hearings will not occur until April.  Check back on this page for updates!
Webmaster, 13 November 2012

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Just Bad Communications?  Or Something More?
When Costco abruptly called off the proposed grand opening of its store in Westfield Wheaton Plaza just a few weeks before the scheduled mid-October date, it tersely stated that it was only due to “construction issues.”  That message was dutifully broadcast by numerous media outlets.  And, since then, not one more detail from Costco – and no follow-up from the media. ................

...........And, we deserve to know whether their refusal to deal openly with the public on this issue is a sign of how they will deal with us on issues relating to the proposed gas station.  Construction or operations problems there could have extremely serious consequences.  Can we trust Costco to come clean on such problems if they won’t tell us why their store can’t open?
    Isn’t it time for the media -- and the County -- to hold Costco’s feet to the fire until they do tell the whole truth?  [This a condensed version:the full blog post on this is available
here.]
Karen Cordry, 11 November 2012

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Sorry, Too Good To Be True!
People who are Parties of Record in the Special Exception process by which Costco is seeking permission to build the disputed gas station were delighted to receive (late October) a copy of a letter from the Costco attorneys to the Board of Appeals, stating that Costco was withdrawing Special Exception Petition S-2794.  Unfortunately, this simply reflects the fact that S-2794 is no longer valid because of the passage of ZTA 12-07.  Costco is revising the relevant documents and will soon be filing a new petition - with a new number - requesting approval to build the gas station.  So not all good news is as good as it seems!
Webmaster, 1 November 2012

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Why is Costco giving out freebies and distorting the truth?
Reliable sources tell us that Costco reps recently met with staff at Parkland middle school to promote the new store.  They offered free memberships and stated that they had received county approval for the new gas station and that it will open in summer 2013.  We checked with county officials and were told that no such approval has happened and cannot unless/until the Special Exception process is completed.  Since Costco has yet to file the revised paperwork required, they seem to be spreading untruths.  Surprise?
Webmaster, 26 October 2012

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Health Risk from Idling Cars
During a recent meeting with my Cardiologist he asked to be updated on our fight to stop Costco's gas station location at Wheaton Plaza.  He was shocked and amazed to learn that in New Jersey, premature births, a risk factor for cognitive delays, in areas around highway toll plazas dropped 10.8% after the introduction of E-ZPass, which eased traffic congestion and reduced exhaust fumes (click here).
Abigail Adelman, 24 October 2012
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Delay in Opening of Costco Store
According to a brief comment in a recent Costco 'earnings call transcript', the Wheaton warehouse will not open until March or April due to construction issues unrelated to the gas station.  The full earnings call transcript can be seen here.
Danila Sheveiko, 10/16/12

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