The Latest Wawa News…..Whitemarsh Weighs In

Yesterday we learned that Whitemarsh Township had sent a letter back in January to Conshohocken regarding the proposed Wawa at 11th and Fayette.  A portion of the the Moore property sits within Whitemarsh Township.  The letter raises two concerns, one involves zoning and the other involves traffic and safety:

The zoning issue pertains to the strip of land located in Whitemarsh, which is part of the proposed development site; based on the sketch plan, that strip is primarily proposed as parking, a portion of a vehicular exit lane, and a 12+-foot green space. That strip is zoned B-Residential, which is a single-family residential district; the sketch plans submitted appropriately note it to be in this district. Should the Borough eventually amend the Zoning Ordinance as requested and the Wawa development gets a goahead to move forward, the applicant would require zoning approval from the Township, and could possibly require either a rezoning or a use variance (and some dimensional variances) in order to install the improvements shown within Whitemarsh Township. To date, no applications have been filed in the Township. Without additional information, we have not drawn any firm conclusions about the applicant’s rights under our Zoning Ordinance. However, we are aware that most of the operations formerly at this site as E. F. Moore Chevrolet, have ceased, although the sketch plans list the “current” use as “retail establishment and automotive service station” and call out the proposed use to be “retail establishment and gasoline service station”. To our knowledge, retail sales of automobiles ceased at this location more than two years ago; we believe that the only operation still located here is the auto body shop. While the “current use” would be nonconforming under the provisions of the B-Residential District if it still existed, that use (the E. F. Moore automobile dealership) has likely lost any resumptive rights it might have had.

In regards to traffic and safety, the letter outlines the concerns of Whitemarsh’s Chief of Police:

While we have not conducted a full review of the sketch plans, there is an issue which we would like to bring to the Borough’s attention; we believe it is prudent to comment now on the sketch plans, when changes can be considered and before more detailed and costly engineering has been done. The sketch plan issue pertains to the northernmost access shown on Fayette Street; this is the access driveway which is located partially within Whitemarsh Township. When Township Police Chief Mike Beaty examined the plans, he indicated that he had some concerns and thought it important to make sure we get the access improvements designed properly from the beginning.

Chief Beaty’s is concerned with the cross-traffic turns, those vehicles which will turn left into the site and more critically, those vehicles which will turn left out of the site to travel south on Fayette Street.  Based on what Chief Beaty has read, the traffic engineers anticipate a high proportion of vehicles will use the rear exit onto the Harry Street right-of-way leading onto E. l-l-th Avenue, to go to the traffic signal at Fayette Street. However, we have concerns that that exit won’t be used nearly as much as is being predicted; people tend to use the closest exit and the northerly Fayette Street exit is going to be far more convenient for anyone exiting the gas pump area. While we note that the southerly entry/exit on Fayette Street is designed as a right-in/right-out configuration, the northerly entry/exit appears to be drawn as a full movement driveway.

Chief Beaty foresees the northerly entry/exit area being a congestion and collision area that should be accounted for in the design and planning stages. Given the location of that entry/exit, the Chief is concerned that it could require a disproportionate use of Township (police) resources if it is not designed correctly.

I emailed all five Whitemarsh Supervisors yesterday asking about this and not one emailed or called back.  What is interesting about the letter is that it was never discussed publicly (that we can remember) at any of the hearings.  If the Chief of Police from Whitemarsh is concerned, why hasn’t there been any discussion publicly with Conshohocken’s police officials on safety?  We have had traffic studies, sound studies, light studies, etc., but has anyone seen a public safety study?

It is also interesting to that Whitemarsh plainly states that even if Conshy approves the Wawa, the process isn’t done and they are going to require Wawa/the developers to go through zoning in Whitemarsh.  I asked someone about this way over a year ago (I can not remember who) and that person said that since it is a small strip and at the border, Whitemarsh wouldn’t be concerned.  It appears that was not true.

You can read the entire letter here.