NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Provco Pineville Acquisitions will face opposition from the township when it goes before the zoning hearing board seeking variances to build a Wawa at Lower Silver Lake Road and the Newtown Bypass.
On a motion put forward by Supervisor Kyle Davis and seconded by Chairman Phil Calabro, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to send its solicitor to the May 6 zoning hearing board meeting to oppose the zoning relief.
The Provco Group, a commercial real estate agency based in Villanova and the equitable owner of the property, is seeking to build a 5,585 square foot Wawa with gas pumps on a 4.9 acre site across from Crossing Community Church at Lower Silver Lake Road and the Bypass.
Provco’s plan for the site depicts the convenience store facing the Bypass with eight fueling dispensers (16 fueling positions), front and rear store access, pedestrian walkways, bike racks and 60 parking spaces, including three ADA, two electric vehicle charging stations and two air pump stations.
Access to the store would be off of Lower Silver Lake Road via a right in entrance and a full intersection at the entrance to the store at Crossing Community Church.
Provco is seeking relief for the number of fueling dispensers allowed and the location, type and number of signs permitted under the township’s E30 ordinance.
In particular, Provco is seeking relief for eight fueling dispensers on 4.9 acres where six are permitted by right and seven would require at least five acres. Provco is arguing the seventh would require only de minimis relief and should be granted and that eight dispenser would create better traffic flow through the site.
Provco also is requesting electronic message signage to display fuel prices, which the supervisors are unanimously opposing.
“I’m opposed to seven or eight dispensers,” said Supervisor John Mack. “Like I said before, give them seven and they want eight. I want to stick to our guns on what the E30 ordinance says - de minimis or not de minimis.”
Mack said he’s also opposed to electronic messaging boards, arguing it’s not something that’s permitted anywhere in the jointure.
While opposing the variances, the supervisors are not opposing a special exception request by Provco to build a Wawa in the township’s office research zone.
Supervisor David Oxley, however, questioned whether a Wawa is the best use for the site.
“Is this the best use out there for the people of the township in terms of what we can do in finding a better use that fits the needs of our economic challenges and being more fiscally responsible and trying to bring in better revenues?
“I think that space can be utilized in a different way,” continued Oxley. “As we have progressed in the economic development committee, we are starting to have more conversations with different businesses and there might be a potential that that use could be for something greater for the people of the township. We should consider that as an option instead of laying down and giving Wawa an opportunity here.”
Oxley’s comments drew reaction from other board members who said he should have raised the concerns months ago when the township was formulating the E30 ordinance.
“You should have done it months ago. We’re in the 11th hour,” quipped Calabro.
“If we were going to go down that road we could have changed the zoning and not allowed it on that parcel,” said Supervisor Davis. “That’s why I voted no on the zoning change to allow it.”
In response to Oxley’s comments, there were no additional direction from the supervisors to its solicitor.
“The legal defense will be to oppose the variances in the best way that I can,” noted Solicitor David Sander. “Mr. Oxley is certainly free to attend and address the zoning hearing board. He’s a resident and is certainly free to express his opinion to the zoning board during public comment.”
Provco Attorney John VanLuvanae pointed out that if the township is successful in its opposition, it could end up with a Wawa with no signage, which he argued would create a traffic issue with vehicles on the bypass suddenly braking to make a last minute turn onto Lower Silver Lake Road to access the Wawa. “That’s not necessarily good land planning,” he said.
The township, working with the jointure, crafted the E30 use to address a lawsuit filed by Provco challenging the jointure for not allowing a combination convenience store and gas station use. The E30 ordinance limits such a use to the office research zone in Newtown Township.