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Wawa and Conshy Meeting Notes

October 19th, 2010 · 14 Comments · Planning Commission, Politics, Real Estate, Traffic

Club WawaI made the trek last night to the Fellowship House to attend the Wawa sponsored meeting.  I got a good seat in the 2nd row to enjoy the action.

For those of you not familiar with a typical Conshohocken project that residents likely oppose it was a can’t-miss opportunity.  Several hundred packed into the standing-room only space at the Fel to hear the Wawa pitch.  I’ve attended my share of Borough Council meetings and Planning Commissions to know this was going to be fun.  You see, Conshy residents don’t like to keep quiet when it is a hot button issue.  The Wawa meeting was no exception.

I arrived at about 7:02 PM and the presentation had already begun.  There was a Wawa spokeswomen and a Wawa attorney at the front of the room.  They gave a brief overview of the site, the planned buildings, the history of Wawa, etc..etc.  It was quite the dog and pony show.  In general, the audience was quiet and listening intently through most of the presentation.  It was not until the attorney decided to talk about what types of goods Wawa was going to sell that the yelling began.  From the rear of the crowd I heard “Let’s get into it!  We know what Wawa sells!  Let’s start the question and answers!”  The attorney obliged and the fun began.

I live-tweeted as quickly as I could the important points that were raised.  A brief overview of the Q&A session…(You can find the tweets here)

  • Resident – Making a left turn into station will cause traffic backups since there is no center turn lane.
    • Wawa – Traffic study with traffic engineer present at meeting states that this center lane not needed.
  • Owner of Coyote Crossing – Not in particular support of store, but did discuss his experience with Conshy when he wanted to build his restaurant.  He was booed and yelled at many years ago with similar complaints.  Traffic, safety, will ruin the “fabric” of the Borough.
    • Audience Response – Booed him and he quickly left the stage.  Cringe worthy, to say the least.  I was embarrassed.
  • Resident – If enough public outcry, will Wawa abandon plans to build?
    • Wawa Response – No.
  • Resident – Any study of Wawa and local property values?
    • Wawa Response – No, but improved land with a Wawa has to have an improvement as compared to a shuttered car dealership.  More boos from crowd.
  • Kevin Bowe from Bowe Exxon – Local stations will be put of out business.  Wawa will generate 3-4 fuel tankers per day, compared to his 1 tanker every other day.
    • Wawa Response – No response. General stance on this is that Wawa is not competition because they don’t offer the “other” automobile services that a typical gas station does.
  • 4th Street Deli – Wawa is not competition to him because he has a better product.
    • Wawa Response – We agree.  They pride themselves on the convenience factor, not the quality factor.
  • Stone Rose Owner – I don’t want Conshy to look like a strip mall.
  • Resident – If you don’t want Wawa to build here, don’t shop there.
  • Wawa Statement– Zoned Residential Office, would need Zoning and probably Planning Commission relief in order to build.

This was a mess from the start.  The crowd was 95 percent against the project and there was no central figure from the Borough acting as a mediator.  Once the yelling began, it was hard to stop it.  When someone dare speak up with the slightest support of the project the cat-calls began.

I’m not going to voice my opinion on the pros and cons of this project, at least not right now.  I’m going to wait and see how it moves through the process and ends up at my door.  I am a member of the Borough Planning Commission and I do get to voice my opinion in an official capacity when it is on the agenda for the PC.

So, what does this project mean to you, the reader and/or resident of the Borough?  I have fairly limited knowledge of the process before and after it makes it to Planning.  But, here is what I think is going to happen…

  1. This project will need some type of zoning work.  It may need to get re-zoned or get some big variances.  The Zoning Hearing Board has specific control of how zoning works and it does not need approval from anyone else (like Council, see below) to make a ruling.  By rule, they are only to give relief if a specific hardship exists for the project.
  2. This project will need to go in front of the Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission does not have any power and acts in an advisory role to Borough Council on new developments.  Again, if a particular project does not meet the requirement of the Borough Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (If you want to look at the SALDO, check Chapter 22 here) and relief from these requirements are requested, the Planning Commission research, discuss and vote on this relief.  The results of these votes are communicated as recommendations to Council which they accept or decline.
  3. The last step in the process is for the Planning Commission recommendations go to a vote to Borough Council.  They have the final say on the future of the project.  They generally follow the recommendation of the Planning Commission, but they do not have to.

What can you do?

  1. Attend meetings that actually matter.  The Wawa meeting last night meant nothing.  It was an act of generosity by Wawa to answer questions and gauge sentiment.  Yelling and screaming at them to “Go Home”, “We don’t need it” and whatever else took place last night does nothing for the future of the project.  It just makes Conshohocken residents look like buffoons.
  2. The Zoning Hearing Board has teeth.  They can make or break this project.  The Planning Commission has no actual power, but our recommendations and changes to the plans are usually taken seriously.  Both the Zoning Hearing Board and the Planning Commission meet monthly and the meetings are open to the public.  If you want to express your opinion to groups that matter, do it there.
  3. Attend the Borough Council meetings and contact your local Councilperson to express your opinion.  Again, Council will have final say on if this project happens.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Damian

    Thank you for posting this! I wanted to go last night to see the spectacle but had to work late.

    I can tell you from experience, the zoning won’t be a problem. Borough Council doesn’t have the last word. If they decline, Wawa will take the matter to court where they’ll get what they want, possibly with some legally bound concessions. If I were a cynic I’d say Council knows this and willfully tosses unpopular (but net positive) rezoning cases to the courts.

    This is admittedly anectodal, but in every small community where I’ve seen one or more “super” Wawa’s move in, I’ve never seen the local gas stations or sandwich shops close. And I highly doubt the snack stand at the ball fields are in jeopardy.

    Personally I welcome one of these clean, well maintained stores in that particular location. I’m a Conshy resident, and my family will continue frequenting all the local businesses in town. This will be yet another option for us to choose from. And maybe it will lead to other local businesses investing in and improving their offerings.

  • chris

    I agree, I do support the WAWA opening up. I think it will be great for the community. People of this town, especially the lifetime locals should stop making excuses and let it happen. Stop being afraid of change! Hope to see WAWA soon! And the local stores owners that think they will not survive must not back their product if they think WAWA will put them out of business. Hopefully they can step it up as well.

  • sammy

    I don’t see the need for yet another WAWA since there is already one right up the road. (you take your life in your hands trying to turn into that one, by the way)

    There is already too much traffic on that corner with early morning commuters, and it is precarious enough when trying to make a left turn, even with the traffic light. I think it will be a nightmare when people are whizzing in and out to get their morning coffee. We already have many lovely local businesses in town to get coffee. Lets support them! Not afraid of change when it makes good sense.

  • JB

    Hey Chris,

    People who just let it happen, later wish they had used a condom.

    Also, the lifetime locals love the town, and would like it to stay as beautiful a place to live as anyone would want. Bigger is not always better. Our memories of being able to cross the street without being run down by the newbees’ are great ones.

  • Fish

    Sounds like the meeting was attended by a bunch of teabaggers.

  • anthony trimboli

    What are the actual details of this project? Location? Proposed size? etc? The summary above is nice, but doesnt inform on what actually is happening.

    And Fish, dont be an idiot.

    • Brian

      There are not a lot of details. Nothing has been submitted to Zoning, Planning or Borough Council. They had a sketch plan only during the meeting, showing what the proposed Wawa would look like. It’s going to be a wait and see from here if Wawa takes it to the next level.

  • anthony trimboli

    How about where? The Chevy dealer lot on Fayette?

  • mrdaveryan

    I’m a fan. Gas stations in Consho are overpriced (Lukoil on Ridge), overcrowded (Exxon and Sunoco on Fayette) or full-serve and shady (everywhere else on fayette).

    I couldn’t give a foo about more salty Wawa sandwiches, just gas me up.

  • Tyler

    I dont think Fish is an idiot. I think he is the smartest one to comment yet. It’s all about capitalism. Screw everything else.

  • Fish

    Tyler, I agree with you. I would like more Wa Wa’s and less church’s. The church’s are the one’s who are scamming the system. They need to start paying their tax’s, just like everyone else. We need a ballot measure to start taxing them. They are getting involved in politics, they should be considered profit organizations, not non profits. Most, not all, care about money and power.

  • Melissa

    I guess I may be very late on this discussion. However, I do have a question that may or may not have been addressed.

    Why can’t they put the new wawa in the same spot as the wawa up the street? It seems to me that there is plenty of room.

    comments?

  • Dolly Serrano

    I guess I may be very late on this discussion. However, I do have a question that may or may not have been addressed. Why can’t they put the new wawa in the same spot as the wawa up the street? It seems to me that there is plenty of room. comments?

  • Bobby Daddis

    So does anyone know the proposed location?

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