A request to sell gas at the Costco Wholesale store on Reserve Street is on its way to a public hearing after no new opposition surfaced in a Missoula City Council committee review Wednesday.

But one of the original protesters continues to argue the plan will make already bad traffic on Northern Pacific Street even worse. Karl Tyler of Karl Tyler Chevrolet said he hasn't seen any suggestions that would convince him to drop his protest.

"If I was a short-term thinker, I'd say yeah, gas right across the street would be great," Tyler said. "But I'm thinking about traffic flow of customers. There's so many accidents out here already. Yesterday when we were looking at the street, there was nearly a head-on (collision) while we were standing out there."

The store and the car dealership have main entrances directly across from each other on Northern Pacific Street. Missoula City Engineer Steve King said there's already a problem with traffic trying to get in or out of the Costco parking lot blocking access to Tyler's lot.

"This may be an opportunity to correct an existing problem," City Council member Myrt Charney said during the Wednesday Plat, Annexation and Zoning committee review. Since the pump station would probably require redesigning traffic flows in the Costco parking lot, the changes could also solve the entry problems for the two businesses, he said.

Missoula Costco store manager Fred Schoenhard said he didn't know what prices gasoline would sell for if the pumps are approved. About 50 other Costco stores have gas stations, none of which are in Montana. Schoenhard said those other stores sell gas for about a dime below local retail prices.

The 12 pumps would be automated, requiring a Costco membership card to operate and a credit card to make payments. No cash would be accepted, and no other services besides gas, such as window washing or oil checks, would be provided, Schoenhard said. The pumps would only operate when the store is open.

The matter now heads for a public hearing before the full council Monday evening. Since Tyler's business is one of four close enough to trigger a legal protest to the change, the council must approve it by a supermajority of at least nine of its 12 members.

Thursday - 6/3/99

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