Competitors Try to Block New Super Wawa

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Competitors Try to Block New Super Wawa

WARMINSTER, Pa. -- Attorneys representing the owners of gas stations situated near the site for a proposed Super Wawa here have asked Warminster officials to defend the township's zoning ordinance against a challenge from Wawa, and prohibit the gas station from being built.

The planning commission and supervisors haven't yet decided what they will do.

As reported by the Doylestown, Pa. Intelligencer, the chain wants to build a Super Wawa on an approximately 5-acre parcel, just down the street from a 7-Eleven and another gas station. Sketch plans show that the new convenience store will take up 5,773 square feet, and would have eight underground gas tanks to service 16 nozzles.

Wawa has attempted to build a Super Wawa twice before in Warminster. Those proposals were denied because too many homes near the site relied on wells for water, and township officials worried about the risk of gas leaking from the tanks into the groundwater, the newspaper said.

Although wells aren't as much of a concern with the current proposed site, the township's zoning ordinance currently prohibits a gas station at Street and Newtown roads. It allows gas stations in areas zoned for highway-commercial use and prohibits a gas station from being built within 1,500 feet of another gas station, restaurant with take-out, or hotel or motel, the Intelligencer reported.

The proposed site is zoned for commercial use and located less than 1,500 feet from two gas stations. "The township doesn't want just a strip of one gas station after another," township solicitor Stephen Harris told the newspaper, though he added that Wawa's attorneys argue that the township is trying to exclude gas stations and its zoning ordinance is unconstitutional.

Wawa's attorneys say there are only 13 areas zoned for highway-commercial use, and they are all currently occupied by gas stations, Harris said. The company's attorneys also argue that the gas stations in and around Warminster are not sufficient to meet the community's needs.

The chain is asking the township to make a "curative amendment" to the zoning ordinance that would allow it to build at Street and Newtown roads, according to the report. The planning commission will have a hearing on the matter Feb. 7, and the board of supervisors on Feb. 8.

If the supervisors do not grant Wawa's request, the company could challenge the township's zoning ordinance in court, the report said. And if it wins, the company would be allowed to build the Super Wawa regardless of whether it meets the township's other zoning regulations.