Plans to build a Costco gas station in the Camino Real Marketplace have fueled a storm of controversy among residents recently, after business owners and community advisers vocalized concerns regarding a possible increase in traffic to the area.

In particular, some nearby residents objected to the planned 16-pump wholesale station, arguing that the project’s negative impacts on the local community outweigh its potential benefits – namely relief from the currently high gas prices. Complaints included the possibility of overflowing parking lots, backed-up traffic and the gas station’s proximity to the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

Goleta City Senior Planner Rob Mullane said the vast majority of feedback the city has received from the community regarding the proposed station has been negative.

“The most common issues [raised by the community] have been increased traffic in the adjacent streets, loss of parking spaces and a concern for airport safety,” Mullane said.

Some of this criticism is based on the findings of the Goleta Environmental Impact Report. The report, issued last April, outlined some potential drawbacks of the proposed station, such as the loss of 88 parking spaces in the shopping center as well as increased traffic on Hollister Avenue and Storke Road.

The report also concluded that the gas station’s proximity to the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport – located roughly one mile away from the proposed construction site – presented an “incremental increase in risk exposure for aircraft accidents.”

Although the “frequency of occurrence for such an event would be very low, the consequences would be categorized as major,” the report stated.

In response to these findings, SBA’s Landing Committee, a subgroup of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, will review the plan and offer its recommendations to the city, Mullane said.

“If they recommend denial [of the proposed station], the city can only approve the plan with a four-fifths supermajority vote,” Mullane said.

Although the committee has not yet issued an official recommendation, Mullane said the city received a stern letter from the committee stating its opposition to the plan.

During the 45-day public review period for the project’s EIR, which ended last Thursday, Mullane said the city received a handful of letters supporting the proposed station. These community members were in favor of the cheaper gas that the new station would offer.

Costco, a wholesale retail chain with over 260 gas stations nationwide, promotes itself as offering its customers “the lowest gas price within five miles.”

Costco’s Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said the monetary benefits of his company’s gasoline are quite worthwhile to consumers.

“[Members can expect] to save anywhere from a few cents to sometimes as much as 20 or 30 cents per gallon,” Galanti said.