NORTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP >> The Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting on July 7 to consider land development plans for a new Super Wawa at Buck and Rocksville Roads.
The live, in-person meeting will take place at the township building. And plans for the Wawa will be the only topic on the evening’s agenda, according to Chairman Adam Selisker.
Provco Pinegood is proposing a two lot subdivision that would divide the 5.4 acre Wright property located between Buck, Holland and Rocksville Roads and adjacent to Hope Road, into two lots.
The lots would be separated by the realignment of Holland Road, creating a new intersection at Buck and Holland Roads at the Pheasant Valley Center and alleviating traffic congestion to the south.
Provco is proposing to build a 5,585 square foot Wawa convenience store and an eight pump fueling station with sloped canopy on the north side of the realigned Holland Road on 2.37 acres at Rocksville and Buck Roads across from Hope Road.
The site would also incorporate 57 on site parking spaces, a large rain garden, a buffer with more than 39 trees, hundreds of shrubs and grasses, sidewalks around the perimeter of the site and decorative streetlights.
In addition to realigning Holland Road through the property, the plan includes the addition of a traffic signal at Buck and Rocksville Roads. Both projects have been endorsed by PennDOT.
At its June 23 meeting, the supervisors got a preview of what’s to come at its July 7 meeting.
More than 60 residents packed into the meeting room holding up signs opposing the proposed Wawa. They raised issue with the plans over traffic, noise, light pollution, safety, housing values, crime and the affects of benzene on the public’s health.
“We need something there that won’t negatively impact our lives,” said Charles Chak, who lives about two blocks from the site. “This is going to change our neighborhood,” he said, raising additional concerns about a loss in property values. “It’s going to devalue our properties. And that money is important to me in retirement. We don’t need that Wawa in our neighborhood. There’s a Wawa every mile. We don’t need it.”
Hope Road resident Pam Duffey implored the supervisors to negotiate. “The zoning has clearly failed us. Negotiate with them. Go to Provco. Ask them to move that away from the houses. You’re going to kill us. Please negotiate. It’s not a done deal. Maybe Wawa will walk away.”
Resident Tom Bucher suggested the township acquire the Wright property through eminent domaine and use the site for a roundabout to better improve traffic conditions in Holland. “Using the property this way alleviates the congestion of the ‘Y’ intersection to the south and uses it in a way that fits the community and keeps it beautiful in look and feel.”
“The area cannot handle the traffic volume that a Super Wawa creates,” said Jerry Duffey. “That’s the problem with putting this kind of immense commercial business in a residential area. It’s a triangular area. Two-thirds of it is bordered by residential.”
“Over the next few weeks you’re going to make probably the most important decision in your tenure,” Hope Road resident Jay Bowen told the supervisors. “I implore you to look at all the facts. If you do that I think you will see that this is not the location that is best suited for this community ... Keep an open mind. Take it all in and what was said here today. Listen to your heart and I think at the end of the day you will make the right decision.”
Opponents have also launched an online petition drive against the proposal. As of June 24, 2,356 people had signed the Stop Holland Super Wawa Petition on change.org.
In April, the township’s planning commission recommended that the board of supervisors deny the plans.
After hearing a presentation for the new convenience store and gas station, the planners pretty much agreed that a Wawa is not what the Holland Village Master Plan had envisioned for the site when it was developed seven years ago.
“The master plan viewed this parcel a whole lot differently than what we are looking at now,” said planner Pat McGuigan. “This project that is being presented encroaches directly upon a huge residential area with hundreds of houses.
“As I come over the bridge and up Holland or Buck Road into the Village of Holland I could never have imagined, when I started driving this back in the 1970s, that’s what this parcel would become. And even just seven short years ago the planning commission and the board of supervisors saw it the same way.
“I don’t think a project like this belongs in this particular location. I would never be for it,” said McGuigan. “And Wawa, being a good partner and looking at good public relations, may think this through and maybe decide this belongs some place else. Wawa may have the right to do this, but I still don’t think it’s such a great idea and neither did the Bucks County Planning Commission.”
Under the master plan, the portion of the property where Wawa wants to build its store is envisioned as a transitional area between residential and commercial, possibly as a park. The plan also recommends that the southern portion of the tract be developed with residential or commercial uses or a combination of the two.
Planner Paul Constantini agreed with McGuigan, arguing that a convenience store and fueling station is 180 degrees from what was envisioned by the Master plan.
“This part of the land was meant to be more of a buffer to the residential areas before getting into the heavy commercial side,” he said. “This couldn’t be more opposite of what this is going to be with 24 hour gas pumps, lots of light pollution, more traffic. From a planning perspective I see this as a complete departure from what was decided in the original master plan for Holland Village.”
Planner Edward Ingle noted that over the years the site has been considered for a gas station and a free standing drug store, neither of which came to fruition.
“This seems like a pretty intense utilization of this parcel, especially in view of fact that it’s envisioned as a transitional zone from the commercial area of Holland to the residential area. If this project does move forward, it is imperative there be allowances for some type of gateway area in the northeast corner to let people know they are entering Holland.”
Under the property’s current C2 Village Overlay District zoning, a convenience store with gas pumps is permitted, by right.
Wawa, it appears, would be allowed to build the store on the property under the current C2 zoning.
“This use is consistent with the health, safety and welfare. It’s allowed to go on this site because it’s permitted by right,” argued Provco Attorney Julie VonSpecklesen.
VonSpecklesen argued that the master plan is a “guideline” and is “not mandatory. This property is zoned for this use, which is a by right use,” she said. “Provided that we comply with the zoning and the subdivision and land development ordinances we are entitled to develop this property with this proposed development.”
VonSpecklesen added that even though the master plan is a guideline, “we are incorporating the realignment of Holland Road,” which is recommended by the master plan. She also noted that the master plan does include a scenario with a commercial use on the northern parcel where the Wawa is being proposed.
Planner Andrew Gannon conceded Wawa’s right to develop the site, but said that doesn’t mean it’s right, especially with a residential neighborhood within yards of the site.
“The zoning is what the zoning is. It’s a failure of the administration that didn’t set appropriate zoning for this land so that this type of application couldn’t be used. It’s sad. It’s a shame. But it’s a reality,” said Gannon. “But just because you can doesn’t mean you should and I could not in good conscious vote to approve this.”