Examining the Eyesore Argument

This post is the first in a series of posts examining the arguments made for and against the Wawa. Arguments examined will be those made officially by Wawa, by the Conshohocken Revitalization Alliance and from comments made on this and other news outlets.

The first argument we are examining is the “eyesore” argument. This is an argument that is made all the time by those that support permitting the Wawa. The argument goes “would you rather live next door to a out of business car dealership?” and “do you prefer for this eyesore to continue to exist in Conshohocken?”

A little history, Moore Chevrolet was put of business as a result of the auto bailout. Chevy was told by the federal government to cut ties with under performing dealerships. For a time the family operated its repair business from the location, but eventually that moved to the Exxon station.

One question that pops up, and the Moore family has chosen to not answer, is whether the property was ever formally put on the market. MoreThanTheCurve.com has asked who listed it, when was it listed and how was it advertised and has never received a response. If you follow MoreThanTheCurve.com, you know we always post when prominent locations are up for sale or rent. We never saw a “for sale” sign up. A story about the property being for sale with a corresponding photo would have been treated as a major story here on MoreThanTheCurve.com. Did anyone ever see a sign?

Now, the Moore’s have every right to not answer that question. It is not really anyone’s business. They can sell the lot to whoever they want. However, the new property owner doesn’t have the right to build or open any type of business they want. This is the process that is currently taking place in regards to the Wawa.

Wawa announced its intentions in regards to Conshohocken and the Moore property in October of 2010. They held a town hall at the Fellowship House (Larry Platt, there was plenty of shouting at this event) and gave their sales pitch, put out some free hoagies and answered questions.

Then for two years nothing happened, at least not publicly.  The formal proposal submitted to the Borough is dated October 15, 2012. The plan did not change in any significant way between October 2010 and October 2012. Once they submitted the October 15, 2012 proposal, it was discussed at the Planning Commission the next month. If it weren’t for the holidays, a vote by the Planning Commission would have been taken within two months of the submission of the proposal. Due to the holidays, it was delayed a month.

Borough Council reacted quickly on the matter. It received the Planning Commission’s report and within a month set March 27th for a hearing and April 17th for the vote. So basically the Borough, without the holiday, could have provided an approval or voted against it within five months. Based on this timeline, If Wawa would have acted back in 2010, the issue could have been resolved in the spring of 2011.

So why can’t XYZ Developer just call the Moore’s today and make an offer on the property? While this has never been confirmed by anyone, it is common practice to put a piece of property “under agreement.” This means the Moore’s can not entertain other offers. It is believed that the Moore’s are receiving a monthly fee during this process. If Wawa is not allowed to open at the location, the agreement ends and the Moore’s can move on and offer it for sale to other interested parties.

Developers and commercial realtors have told me that there was interest in the Moore property as soon as the whole Wawa thing was announced. Consider this, the 22 townhomes built behind McDonald’s in West Conshohocken sold-out in eight weeks. The Hale Pump property was purchased by a residential developer. Developers are very interested in Conshohocken. Conshohocken is a hot residential market. If a residential developer had bought the property, the homes would be near or already completed.

This is not an argument that housing would be the best use of the space.  I am using it as an example of how the property could have been sold and developed quickly. The eyesore only exists today because Wawa is involved and waited two years.

Look for our next post soon when we explore the argument: Wawa will create to much traffic, but I would love a Trader Joe’s at that location.