Northampton Township ZHB To Issue Ruling On Controversial Holland Super Wawa Development (Voice of the People)
The following is a submission to the Lower Bucks Source “Voice of the People” by Northampton Township resident Brett Duffey.
On June 20, Northampton Township’s Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) held a public hearing regarding the highly controversial Holland Super Wawa project. Both sides presented their cases as to whether or not Wawa’s gas operation is “entirely incidental”. These quoted words were the crux of the entire case via the Township Zoning Ordinance. Several dozen residents, including myself, attended the meeting with large “Stop Wawa” signs to show our displeasure with the project. Efforts to fight the project have gone on for over two years as residents feel that a large gas station being built just 70 feet from residential properties is thoroughly ridiculous and frankly dangerous. Residents had also asked via a sign that ZHB Chairman John Fenningham recuse himself over a potential conflict of interest with Wawa. After seeing the sign, Fenningham gave a lengthy description as to why he believed he did not have to recuse himself, saying he never represented parties involved with the development of a Wawa.
Christopher Papa, the lawyer representing residents who oppose the project, argued via a series of articles and studies that Wawa’s gas operation is an essential part of their business. John Vanluvanee, counsel for Wawa’s developer (Provco Pinegood Northampton LLC.), argued that Zoning Officer Mike Solomon’s previous determination that gas is just one of many retail products sold at Wawa stores is correct and that gas is not special or requires going through a conditional use hearing. Additionally, the Zoning Officer previously determined that the sale of gasoline is comparable to the sale of other retail products such as baked goods that the township zoning ordinance permits “by right” in C2 Commercial Zones. Many in the community found that assertion flatly ridiculous. How could the sale of baked goods possibly be compared to the sale of gas in any reasonable person’s mind?
After hearing the testimony, the zoning board ultimately determined it will take one week to decide the case and will issue a ruling on June 27. Residents are hopeful for a good ruling, although we are uncertain it will go our way despite what seems to be clear evidence that Wawa’s gas operation is not “entirely incidental”. Either way, the board’s ruling must be reviewed by Bucks County Court of Common Pleas Judge Denise Bowman who originally remanded the case back to the zoning board after she deemed Provco/Wawa’s previous arguments lacking “substantial evidence”. If she deems the ruling unsatisfactory once more, the case could be thrown up in the air again. Following the zoning meeting, many residents against the project held a “Stop Wawa Potluck Protest” to rally support for the cause of preventing a mega gas station in our community. The event is pictured above.