NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> The Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board on May 6 granted a continuance to June 3 in the Provco/Wawa appeal.
Township solicitor David Sander requested the continuance to give the township more time to prepare its case against the requested relief and to line up expert testimony.
At its April 28 meeting, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to oppose Provco’s request for zoning relief for the proposed convenience store and gas station and to direct its solicitor to oppose the variance requests.
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 Newtown 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, two electric vehicle charging stations, two air pump stations.and 60 parking spaces, including three designated for ADA.
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 variance relief for the number of fueling dispensers allowed and the location, type and number of signs permitted under the township’s E30 ordinance.
Specifically, 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 a number of variances for signage, including for two electronic message centers that are prohibited in the jointure. Provco is requesting the electronic center signs to display fuel prices with the changeable copy limited to fuel prices.
Provo is also requesting variances for number of signs allowed. The number of signs is limited to two. Provco is asking for four signs.
In addition, Provco is seeking a variance for the location of signs. The ordinance does not permit signage within 1,000 feet of the bypass. Provco is seeking relief for one wall sign located lwithin 1,000 feet of the bypass.
While opposing the variances, the supervisors are not challenging a special exception request by Provco to build a Wawa in the township’s office research zone under the E30 use.
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.
If the zoning board grants the relief, the township has the right to appeal. If the township doesn’t appeal, Wawa will be free to move forward with land development plans to build the Wawa.
If the relief isn’t granted, Provco can appeal the decision to the Bucks County Court of Appeals, a process that would rack up addition legal fees and take months to complete, or it can move forward with by right plans which would limit the fuel dispensers to six and the number and types of signs as per the E30 ordinance.
“I think they were very wise in how they drafted their application so that the variances aren’t that spectacular,” surmised township attorney Jerry Schenkman at the May 5 planning commission meeting. “And even if they are denied and they have to do the by right development, they can build it with the number of dispensers we find acceptable, the number of signs that are in the ordinance and they can go through land development and build the Wawa.”