A zoning ordinance amendment filed by Provco Goodman Jenkintown, L.P., which would create a new use in the areas zoned as planned business (PB), will head to the Abington Board of Commissioners next month — without the blessing of the Abington Planning Commission.
The planning commission, which is an advisory council, voted late last night to reject the amendment by a vote of 5-4. The amendment is linked to the proposed development of a Wawa store and fueling station in the 800 block of Old York Road, near Baeder and Hilltop roads.
Planning commission board members Catherine Gauthier, Ronald Rosen, Charles Carter, Lucy Strackhouse and David Good voted to reject the ordinance.
At the planning commission meeting last month, chairman Ronald Rosen said Bruce Goodman’s plans for the development of the site were aesthetically pleasing, but said he was uncomfortable supporting the ordinance without a traffic study.
Goodman and his team were armed with the traffic study last night, but it didn’t matter. Greg Richardson, an engineer with the firm Traffic Planning and Design, Inc., out of Pottstown, said the proposed development would generate traffic, but would have “no adverse effects” on the roadway network.
According to the study, 60 percent of the vehicles entering the proposed Wawa would be coming from Old York Road and The Fairway. In addition, two-thirds of those entering the proposed store would already be on the road.
Many residents spoke in opposition of the ordinance, and in essence, the Wawa development plans during the 3-plus hour meeting.
Deborah Pines, of Baeder Road, said the additional traffic generated by the development would cause adverse health effects. Pines added that with the recent development of the L.A. Fitness, she has had trouble exiting her driveway.
Paul Morse, of Glen Road, disputed Wawa’s claim of being a good steward of the community; he held up photos of overflowing trash receptacles at other Wawa locations. He also said that he wanted local residents to hire an engineer to provide them with an independent traffic study.
Residents Laura McCarthy and Stephen Ferrara were less critical of the actual Wawa, but still opposed the development. Ferrara said he thought the renderings of the proposed Wawa were pleasant enough, but said the ordinance “appeared to be spot zoning.” He went on to say that any commissioner who votes in favor of the ordinance in December would have his or her hopes for re-election affected.
McCarthy said she understands and accepts that she bought a home next to an area that had the potential to be developed, but said she was against the 24/7 aspect of the Wawa.
When Rosen asked Wawa regional spokeswoman Susan Bratton if the site had to be open 24/7, Bratton said, “Absolutely, yes.”
Goodman’s attorney, Michael Savona, said his closing comments while a picture of the current site was shown on the projector. The photo depicted cars for sale on a lot ... and many of them were wearing balloons.
There was a constant murmur coming from the audience while Savona spoke.
“It’s important to keep in perspective that that’s what the property looks like now,” Savona said, pointing to the projector. “It’s in a condition that even the Rydal Civic Association describes as ‘blighted.’ This is a site that needs [to be] redeveloped. This township knows that, this commission knows that.
“The last two meetings focused on a lot of technical stuff,” he continued. “Residents and neighboring property owners are always inclined to dismiss the technical [aspects] because [they] just want something developed there that [they] approve of. It’s not always possible … if this were an easy site to develop, it wouldn’t look like that. Like it or not ladies, and gentlemen, it can’t be done under the current ordinance.”
The Abington Board of Commissioners will hear the issue at a special meeting Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the township building.