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The Abington Citizens Network
where Abington, PA residents can share ideas and join forces to build a better community
 

 


The Super Wawa & the Ordinance
that not only allows the Wawa, but others like it

The final Land Development plan passed June 13, 2013  after a series of debacles and "boon-doggles .  This has been an issue that appears to  have been made to be as confusing as possible on purpose - particularly where residents were directed to LandDevelopment when they brought up certain issues ----  then told in Land Development that the rights had been given in the earlier phase , so the issue was moot.
 Please  let me know if you find a single Township web page that succinctly clarifies the Wawa process for residents ....  I certainly  have not. As long as residents don't insist on these tools, each will be left to scrape together details that are being purposely withheld.
  If there are discrepancies or errors on this page,  please let us know so we can correct anything that needs correcting.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS .
Developer Bruce Goodman wanted a Super Wawa store,   12 gas pump slots ( six 2 sided pumps)  and another building , originally to be a bank.  He tried to get his development underway by proposing 24 plus variances . That wouldn't fly. He then proposed to rewrite our laws. & Commissioners voted yes ( 7 out of 56,000) and it was a done deal .  But that was challenged in court. He then rewrote the ordinance again - changed a few things. Claimed it was a brand new ordinance to get around the law that required a year before filing a similar ordinance -- and about 3 weeks after the passing of this supposed brand new ordinance ( by 10 Commissioners representing 56,000 people who had been out in force to oppose this ) the final land development was approved. Can you say boondoggle?


WHAT HAPPENING NOW?
Goodman has secured his ordinance and his land development plan approval. He will be moving ahead with the Land Development. Residents are asking for traffic patterns to be controlled on Hilltop -  and one choice, a chain, is being considered to block Hilltop off completely

     Residents will have to decide if they want to undertake the challenging position of filing against this project in court. They have many good grounds upon which to bring a case, but are aware that the  lawyers can bat them around like a ping -pong ball running up costs, etc  and Goodman has already shown a willingness to play dirty pool and hit any challenges with huge bond requirements. So they do not have an opportunity to openly hear what a judge decides whichout risking financial ruin, should the judge be the same kind of friend that the 7-10 Commissioners were who gave the residents rights away.  

   WHY HAS THIS BEEN SO CONFUSING The problem is that the Commissioners allowed an ordinance to pass that has changed the zoning in  many places Township wide, with the locations not fully named or future actions  on them not explored.  This was done largely without the understanding of residents who may be severely impacted in the future by this zoning.  The entire process  was  misunderstood by many residents, never fully and adequately explained by the township. They saw the residents struggling,  believing often that this was an application for a Super Wawa at  the Baeder Rd site alone. It was not. 
       The Super Wawa first came into the picture with an application by one of local developer Bruce Goodman's companies,  requesting over 23 special exceptions and waivers . There was no hardship - so it would not have been allowed .  With no sucess down that alley, Goodman and his company simply wrote an ordinance to change the existing zoning to accommodate him.  Outrageous, but ...over the objection of residents, the Commissioners approved it.   In order not to be denied as "spot zoning", the ordinance was written to  apply Township-wide making it even more troublesome.

      As the application proceeded, the other spots where it might apply were not analysed and brought into the discussion to clarify things for the concerned residents.  They were brushed-over and no ramifications brought to the fore.  Both Commissioners and the developer persisted in allowing the discussion to focus on the Baeder Rd property, confusing many.  (One might opine "intentionally" )  Comments by residents were largely addressed to the specific land development, as had been presented, even though that had been withdrawn and replaced and  was no longer even valid.   It was further complicated by the "Bank" property that the developer planned to purchase and attach to the project, which appeared in the plans. That property had recently been  given waivers regarding set-backs, etc.  under the auspices of becoming a restaurant -- but then was instead added to the picture as an additional parcel  that was a part of this project. It was later (briefly) acknowledged that there was no requirement for it to be a bank; it could be  anything the owner wanted to put there  that met the  new specs.   Few residents grasped that at all, as it was buried in the mix.  The process was amazing to watch.
     The first ordinance was passed, despite a sea of signs and great protest by residents, both near and far.   Despite the fact that any such allowable development at one of the township's busiest and highest crash intersections would bring an increase of 500 or more movements in and out of the intersection at rush hour, this was passed.  Despite the fact that residential traffic to use this facility would attract pedestrians into this outrageously busy intersection, it was passed.  All safety issues and the rights of the residents nearby were ignored, as the developer found a way to acquire even more than the equivalent of the  23 waivers that he originally sought that would not have been legally his right to have.
     The second ordinance hearing is set for a hearing on May 23rd, 2013 .  Once that ordinance passes, landowners whose land fits the specs ( or who are given the infamous waivers that make their land fit the specs)  will have this use by right - and residents will lose the right to rely on the more protective zoning  that now exists.
A HUGE CONCERN :
The rewriting of ordinances by developers to redesign towns has become a new major threat to liveable communities and quality of life.  The towns  should be "owned, operated and designed"  by  the residents who vote the Commissioners in to work in their interests. Instead, big money interests are taking over and over building every inch they can, then importing in their "customers" to be sure they  make as many dollars as possible from each project. The over-all health of the community is a far second fiddle to immediate profits .

SUMMARY  OF  PRIOR ACTIONS

June 13, 2013 -  Board of Commissioner - The Land Development plan passed

June 3, 2013  The Land Development came before the Code Enforcement & Land Development Committee -
                          It passed

May 28th, 2013   The new Land Development came before  the Planning Commission .  green light

May 23rd, 2013 The new ordinance came for the Hearing before the Board . Passed 10 to 2

April  23, 2013  A new plan was submitted after the lawsuit was filed by the resident .  The new plan included again the  2,000 ft from a train station  requirement . The new draft ordinance is again for the entire township - it is a Text Amendment to our Zoning code - not a guideline for just the single spot in Jenkintown that has been discussed .

Feb 7, 2013   The Preliminary Plan to build  the Wawa store, stations and a bank at York & Baeder  was approved
           with 14 or more conditions created on the fly at the approval meeting.  Did anyone know what they
          were approving ? I don't think so.
Dec 2012  a lawsuit was filed by a resident  regarding the procedures  in the pasing of this ordinance
Dec 6, 2012    the Motor Vehicle Fueling use for the PB districts was passed - a disgrace for Abington township.
Oct 25, 2012 - The hearing scheduled for this date was cancelled on Oct 23rd
October 23, 2012  - 7:30   Planning Commission - did not approve the plan . Called for a traffic study
Sept 25, 2012 A newer proposal was submitted
Sept 13th - 8 pm    Commissioners set the hearing date as October 25. (This was then cancelled
Sept 19th , 2012 - This  ordinance was pulled from the Planning Commission  agenda at 11:26 am -
             supposedly due to comments made by the Montgomery Co Planning Commission .
Sept 25th 2012 submission to change the zoning ordinance to allow for Motor Vehicle Fueling Center
Sept 12, 2012  Comments from the MontgomeryCounty Planning Commission
Aug 2, 2012  - The first proposal to rewrite the text of the Zoning Code was submitted
Feb 21,  2012 Zoning Hearing Board will NOT hear this  application 
Dec 13, 2011  Zoning Hearing  scheduled but not held


DETAILS of the above summary

   June 13, 2013  The Land Development   was approved by the full Board  . Residents let the Commissioners hear their complete dissatisfaction and  noted that others were no longer out in the droves that they had been  because they didn't believe anything they said, did or cared about, mattered.  Residents asked what was the loss to their homes was... Commissioners said it wasn't their job to calculate that.  One resident who works with these kinds of developments regularly said he has never seen one where the developer got so much but returned virtually nothing to the residents. One resident  noted the absolutely mind boggling process where the brand new ordinance passed  May 23rd and the FINAL Land development plan was being approved 3 weeks later ( astounding especially  since the Land Development plan allows for nearly the exact same development, despite the developer and Township personnel testifying to how "new" and NOT SIMILAR the "new" ordinance was .  Had it not been new - a year would have had to pass before another ordinance could have been introduced .  )

    June 3rd, 2013  The Land Development came  before the Code Enforcement Committee The Code Enforcement Committee gave this the green light to this project, again over the protests of residents in attendance, with chairman Jay O'Connor doing a bang up job of interrupting residents and trying to misdirect them during their turn to speak.   Disgraceful behavior for any Commissioner.  The project now only needs final approval which you can bet is going to be granted .

 May 28, 2013   The new Land Development came before  the Planning Commission .  The Planning Commissioners simply gave it a green light ..... the residents be darned. 

  May 23rd, 2013  The Board voted in the  ordinance in a 10 to 2 vote with Spiegelman and Willis voting no. The Ordinance will now allow Goodman to build nearly exactly what he first proposed . Outrageous to say the least.  There is a law that says that no similar petition may be made withing a year of the other.  This would definitely apply here, though the Township's very own zoning officer Mark Penecale testified in a way to try to help the developer establish that this is "different" or "new" legislation, rather than similar. Amazing. We pay to give salaries to people who work against our interests.   Mr. Penecale is already responsible for caselaw that might also eventually apply here, since in another case, he misinformed residents, telling them the project conformed to zoning when it did not .  In many cases this support of the developer over residents is crucial, as it was here.
      Zappone recused himself because he works for the developer. The lawyer representing certain residents raised the issue that no duplicate or SIMILAR petition could be brought before a full year had passed. 
     This is actually the developer's  3 assualt, not his second, on a community who has been fully worn down by document after document and meeting after meeting . The law should apply that a year must pass between presentations - but who will apply it if a  developer can threaten  them by making them post million dollar bonds and make them fear the inevitable tactics of drawing out the lawsuit until the "prey" has reached financial ruin.  When our justice system allows such things, it is surely clear that we have no justice system at all.........
      Penecale, even though testifying htat the ordinance was new mentioned that the prior work they did (based on the 1st ordinance)   was then used as a "template" for the developer , who made this "new" one . In essence this ordinance allowed for the same basic development as was originally proposed - ( the word template is quite revealing)  and it is sad to watch our own township personnel, paid for by our taxes, trying to paint it as something else. 


   May 17th, 2013 Despite the  Resident   who has a filed the lawsuit was to have had a bond hearing - he was being asked to submit a 1 million dollar bond

  On Feb 7, 2013   the Preliminary plans for the York & Baeder Wawa and a bank were approved. Hilltop & the Noble train and Noble Plaza traffic also comes in. It is one of the township's most dangerous intersections, reportedly zoned "F" .  Abington  Officer Freed testified that he saw no increased risk  from the addition of the 250 plus cars that would create 500 new movements in  and out of traffic during a single hour at rush hour.   It is beyond the imagination of some of us that if they can improve the intersection with an  adjustment to the traffic lights ( putting the Hilltop and Noble traffic on a different time slot from the Baeder Rd turning traffic ) why they are not doing it NOW. We are investigating this as of this writing. 
      There were over 14 things on a list to be changed from what was being presented.    I don't think any two people in the entire room  knew exactly what was being approved and certainly no one had had had any time to research and carefully consider this .  It was "created on the fly" at the meeting and pushed  through hastily - with help from our own solicitor who seemed to "warn" the commissioners if they couldn't find  a reason that it did not meet the code, they were required to pass it .  Rather than asking him for any advice as to where and how it might not meet code or public safety concerns, Commissioner Schreiber phrased her question in a way that if they themselves could not think of or know of any rules that were broken were they required to vote yes?  No public safety concerns or other issues were raised. It reportedly passed  13-2 with Commissioners Spiegelman and Willis ( whose wards are most affected) being the only no votes . I did not hear Commissioner Zappone recuse himself, nor did Commissioner Myers, who has apparently publicly professed to being a longtime, close friend of the developer ( & who also helped re-design the tax abatement lines to include Goddman's properties in earlier years )   I have not yet seen the official report of the votes.  

     In their wisdom, the Commissioners would like to add, for Mr Goodman's benefit, a bus stop into the middle of this insane intersection.  Having their view blocked and having people trying to pull around the bus or avoid the disembarking passengers will add to the safety of the intersection, I guess.  Mr Goodman was quite happy to have the customers, but was not interested in providing them with shelter .  Perhaps their limo drivers will get by before they get too wet... 

 

    12-6-12 The  Board of Commissioners approved the Motor Vehicle Fueling ordinance which added this use to PB zoning Township wide .  In the discussions they refused to discuss any other locations in Abington and how it would impact the residents  there.  PB means  "Planned Business" zoning districts - in which there are over 30 uses allowed by right. Gas stations previously were a conditional use- which was a very good thing for Abington  and Abington residents - allowing much more control. Among the features of what was passed was even a situation where no buffer zone in some circumstances would be required right next to residential  uses  ( outrageous and completely against all our plans, visions, and other zoning directives - a debacle to see this passed) . Commissioners should be ashamed of giving one person rights that take away another's, of creating a fiercely dangerous situation, of putting a convenience store and gas station in our gateway, of  making the violation of our laws legal, rather than upholding them and for ignoring the residents they serve.  They can be even further ashamed for ordering  a resident removed rather than hearing his impassioned comments - which entailed an officer wrestling him to the ground and a great deal of unnecessary police force. A you -tube video that aired was edited deeply to cut out the part of unnecessary force.

       
It is important to understand that the ordinance Goodman managed to get passed  was  an  end  run around the the inability to get 24 or more  variances which the law would not allow as there was no hardship.  In this case, even with the EAC, the Montco Planners and the Abington Planners disapproving, Goodman only had to get 7 votes  . At least 1 commissioner is a good friend and should have recused herself -- another Commissioner works for him and did recuse himself.  One was absent. Leaving a meager 7 votes needed to win an ordinance against all our policies and the wishes of the vast majority of the residents.  (Commissioners Wachter, Gaglianese, Luker, Kalinoski, Gillespie, Myers and DiJoseph voted yes;  Zappone recused  Schreiber was absent. Do you know your Commissioner's complete voting history?  You should. It's important)  Kline while voting against it, said he would have voted for it if a few other conditions were met. At one point during the hearing Commissioner Bowman said to residents concerned about the children at the Day Nursery that the traffic problem was "their problem " -- drawing anger from the crowd as he ignored  the role that the 15 commissioners play in creating these dangerous situations township-wide. One resident told them the blood of children, should there be an accident , would be on their hands.  

      
Despite the fact that this ordinance applies township wide ,  the  focus at the hearing  was on  Provco Goodman’s 4,900 sq ft Wawa with 12 fueling spots  as well as a bank ( or nearly any other thing he might like to add ) at York & Baeder Rds.  The actual  plans for what he will build  had been submitted just prior to the meeting and but few, if any, even knew new plans were submitted, let alone had time to view them.  He  managed to get the ordinance passed by focusing discussion on the prior plans submitted-- even though these were no longer relevant to a single application anywhere in the township. They served only to take attention off the places that would later be involved.

 

   OTHER WAWA'S /// RESIDENT OPPOSITION /// ARTICLES ///    INFO

CHELTENHAM - Bounded by  Limekiln /ogontz/MacDonald and Clubhouse
  Developer Goodman Properties 
  June 3, 2013  The Planning Commission turns it down  13 variances requested
  July 12, 2013 At Planning Commission  residents object . Planning Commission
                     sends it to the zoning board with numerous conditions
  July 16, 2013  Public Hearing  - "Fiscal impact " reported in articleon lists only
                  revenues and does not discuss costs of traffic features,  sewer,
                  storm water management , police, staff time etc  or  the impact on the
                  home values nearby
 Aug 20, 2013   next meeting scheduled

ABINGTON  / JENKINTOWN  - Developer  Provco -Goodman
   at Baeder and York in the Jenintown section of Abington Township
 Passed June 13, 2013 . In a Nutshell : Goodman and his team wrote a new Ordinance ( that had to apply Township wide in order not to be spot zoning. This enables the use  "by right " The ordinance passed 12-6-12 by 7 votes out of the 56,000 that live in Abington . (Depite the Planning Commission , the EAC and the Montco Planning Commission disapproving) .   Preliminary Plans to build the site were approved 2-7-13 (despite traffic that adds 500 in and out movements at an intersection rated "F", inability to control noise and other health, safety and welfare features and despite the fact that the plans were practically "composed" at the meeting). When the ordinance was challenged in court they rewrote the ordinance and presented it as a "new " ordinance - which they had to do because of a law saying that the same OR SIMILAR legislation cannot be presented for a year  ( they did not want to wait) . That ordinance was passed  -- and ...amazingly... the same basic Land Development plan, with just a few adjustments, was passed from start to finish within about 3 weeks.  All on an ordinance that was "not similar" . Simply amazing.


CONSHOHOCKEN    (Developer?  Provco -Goodman??? )
3-13  Turned down by the  Planning Commission 3-13
4-13 turned down by borough council .    
4-13ish - Here is an article from  a Conshohocken writer that delved deeper into the connections  that  exist in the Wawa situation 

HATBORO  
2-12  Wawa in Hatboro  -residents oppose it
7-12  Old Mill Inn and other historic structures at risk - 1100 signatures  to oppose the Wawa   July 2012

HATFIELD
10-11   2nd Wawa in  Hatfield on  309 & Unionville Rd -

LOWER MORELAND  At Philmont & Red Lion
7-19-13  Grand Opening celebrated ( this wawa did not sit nest to residential that we are aware) 

UPPERMORELAND /WILLOW GROVE               
2012 Wawa in Upper Moreland
  Tied  in Planning Commission vote
2012   - approved  late 2012
8-13  Held up waiting for Road approvals - wanting to move ahead anyway

CHERRY HILL, NJ
3-12 Residents unhappy over Wawa on Haddonfield Rd 
- Mar, 2012

 

COMMENTARY ON THE DEVELOPMENTS AND ON THE DEVELOPERS
 --- on the disposition of the old being replaced by  the Wawas, read one writers take on the effects of the incoming Wawas all over, and of Mr Goodman's methods in particular .

4-13ish -  an article from  a Conshohocken writer that delved deeper into the connections  that  exist in the Wawa situation  (same as above under Conshohocken)

 

WAWA FACTS from here and there
Corporate address   260 West Baltimore Pike,  Wawa PA 19063
        Phone: 610-358-8000   Fax: 610-358-8878 http://www.wawa.com
         public.relations@wawa.com
Wawa has 630 stores  in 6 states with 21,000 employees.
Average Wawa assessment is $1.1 million
If millage is around 50 that would translate to $45-55,000 in Real Estate taxes
A Wawa might produce an additional $30-40,000 or more in mercantile taxes
The  Township costs to install and administer this business is not noted
        anywhere that we can find , nor are any figures on the effects on the
       value of nearby property or any proper before and after crime figures.
One Wawa testified that they expected 250 cars to use it during a single hour
        at pm rush hour - that would translate to 500 movements in and out
        of traffic.
     
 

   FOR WHAT TRANSPIRED BEFORE THIS AND LINKS TO DOCUMENTS SEE PRIOR PAGES

 


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