Last night about 200-250 people attended the town hall held by Wawa. The representatives from Wawa started out with a presentation, which was a little to formal, where their lawyer asked prepared questions of their Senior Regional Real Estate Manager. This went on a little too long and eventually some catcalls were heard. You would think Wawa, probably having done this a bunch of times, would have a more casual approach down pat.
Once the question and answer portion started it was a mix of residents and local business owners voicing their opinions and asking questions. A major sentiment from those against it is that they want to try to maintain the small town Conshohocken spirit as much as possible and they do not see a Super Wawa fitting within the community. This was most eloquently and passionately stated by Henry Racich.
There were only one or two people who spoke against rushing to judgment. Carlos Melendez, owner of Coyote Crossing, told the story about how the neighbors had once fought the launch of his now popular restaurant. He basically asked for the community to give Wawa a fair opportunity to explain their plans.
There were also concerns about traffic, deli sandwiches, the Conshy Golden Bear concessions being hurt, the effect on the residences right around the proposed location (basically 11th and Fayette where EF Moore Chevrolet sits now) and zoning.
Here are some observations and questions I left with:
Traffic – People were concerned that people coming into the Borough from North Lane or Ridge will back up traffic as they wait to make a left hand turn against traffic, without a dedicated turning lane, and into the Super Wawa. There were also concerns about the safety of children in the area due to the proximity of the ball fields. All legitimate concerns, but every gas station in the confines of the borough, plus the 7-11, require the same left turn.
Are people really going to turn off Ridge Avenue, into the “Super Wawa traffic nightmare” to buy cheaper gas? Are people who usually get their gas between 5th and 8th Avenue going to do the same?
Deli Sandwiches – This is a tough one to get around. Wawa says they aren’t going to close the two existing locations if they open the Super Wawa. I find that hard to believe in regards to the Butler Pike location. This would bring another major deli into the Conshohocken market. Now, if they were to close the Butler Pike location, everything should be pretty much even as it currently stands.
The Conshy Golden Bears – Are the parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends, etc., who attend these games really going to go to Wawa to buy a snack, instead of going to the concessions which raise money for the kids?
The Residences Around the Proposed Location – It will impact their neighborhood. No question about it.
Zoning – This whole thing is a zoning issue. The location is zoned for office/residential. EF Moore Chevrolet is considered “retail” so it has been used for a purpose other than its intent, which make the case easier for Wawa. Now, who decides if Wawa gets permission to continue the use of the land outside of its current zoning status? The first step is the Zoning Board (click the link to see the members), not Borough Council.
As you see, there are two people who have their terms ending in December of this year. These two seats will be filled by appointment by Borough Council. So contact your Borough Council representative (they are listed at the bottom of this page) and make a suggestion on who to appoint or suggest yourself.
Now how does this zoning stuff work? It is rather difficult to explain and I do not want to get it wrong. There is a Zoning Board segment, plus a Land Development segment within Borough Council. It its simplest terms, if Wawa is approved by Zoning, but not the Borough Council, Wawa can appeal to the Montgomery County Court of Appeals. If Wawa is approved by both bodies, outside groups can appeal (like the gas station owners). There are other scenarios, but that is the gist of it.
Something to consider:
Imagine a Conshohocken without gas stations on three consecutive blocks between 5th and 8th Avenues. Imagine how that space could be revitalized with small shops, galleries, parking, etc., to connect the lower avenues with the higher avenues. Having dinner between 1st and 2nd Avenue and then walking up to 8th Avenue for dessert wouldn’t seem like such a big deal if you could window shop in between. Imagine if you add the space now occupied by the empty Verizon building between 4th and 5th Avenue on the other side of the street. Conshohocken could have a dynamic, walkable, downtown main street. People ask if we need a Super Wawa, no we absolutely do not. But do we need three gas stations and an empty shell of a building splitting the town in two?
Side Note – I really tried to find some Youtube video of “Nuts the Clown” to add some humor to this post. I failed miserably. You had to be there.
I usually don’t open the comment section up, because it gets filled with spam. I will today. Enjoy.
Are you a local business owner with an opinion, or a resident close to the proposed location? Send me a statement or a question you want answered and I will try my best to get an answer for you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.