Costco wants to build a gas station outside its Fairfax store, and is seeking a special-exception permit from Fairfax County to do so. It would sell Costco-brand gas and could only be purchased by Costco members.
TUESDAY NIGHT, attorney David Gill, representing the Costco Wholesale Corp., explained the plan's details to members of the Springfield District/Fairfax Center Land-Use Committee.
The station is proposed for construction on the southwest corner of Costco's property at the intersection of Price Club Plaza and West Ox Road. Originally, Price Club opened there in 1986; then Costco merged with it in 1993 and bought out that company.
"But [Price Club's building] footprint was slightly smaller and didn't plan for a gas station," said Guy Del Monte, general manager of the Fairfax Costco. Of the 400 Costco locations nationwide, he said, 220 have gas stations — including the stores in Sterling, Fredericksburg and Manassas.
The station at the Fairfax Costco would have 16 pumps covered by an island canopy, with a small control-booth manned during operating hours by a Costco employee. Gill said it would sell gasoline only and provide no mechanical services or convenience store.
Gasoline would be sold at a reduced price to members. Said Gill: "It's usually about a dime a gallon cheaper than traditional gas stations."
He said now is the right time to "provide this additional use to enhance member services." And Del Monte said Costco members have been asking for a gas station there "daily — especially customers from Sterling and Manassas who were used to [being able to buy gas outside] their Costco stores."
Millie Schoepe, of the Westbrook community, said she was happy about the proposal. "I am a member of Costco," she said. "In the Centreville area, there are only two privately owned gas stations, and the other ones aren't exactly cheap."
County staff supported a proposal for a gas station there in 1997, but it stalled after independent gas-station owners objected to its selling reduced-price fuel. But Schoepe said it's especially needed now.
"People ask each other, 'Where do you find cheap gas?'" she said. "In Centreville now, it's as high as $2.77 a gallon. So [a Costco gas station] is to the advantage of people living on fixed and low incomes."
AS PART of the project, Costco will also make traffic-circulation improvements to Price Club Plaza — the existing, private road separating the Costco and Home Depot sides of the shopping center. Said Gill: "We're moving the main entrance farther east down Price Club Plaza to eliminate traffic conflicts and to add additional stacking area for people turning into [the plaza] there."
Gill said the gas station would consume about 23 parking spaces, but Costco's customer parking already exceeds what's required by the county. He also said the existing stormwater-management pond would be placed underground.
Residents at Tuesday's meeting expressed concerns about traffic flow within the shopping center, plus adequate screening of the gas station, and Gill said Costco will address these matters. The issue goes to the Planning Commission on May 16.