Newtown Planning Commission Versus Wawa
At its April 21, 2021, Zoom meeting, the Newtown Planning Commission discussed Provco’s Zoning Hearing Board “Special Exception” application that includes variances to allow a proposed Motor Vehicle Fueling & Convenience Store (i.e., Super Wawa) on the southwest corner of Newtown Bypass & Lower Silver Lake Road in the Newtown Office Research district.
Note that this so-called “E-30” use recently was created by the Newtown-Wrightstown-Upper Makefield Joint Zoning Council via a “municipal cure” process.
The requested variances to the E-30 use includes 8 multi-product fueling dispensers where 6 are permitted & associated signage, including an electronic sign visible to the Bypass where electronic signs are prohibited throughout Newtown.
Presenting at the meeting was John VanLuvanee, Esq., agent on behalf of Provco Pineville Acquisitions, and project engineer Jason Korczak of Bohler Engineering. After the presentation and general discussion and questions by Commission members, each member was requested to vote on the special exception application in general and specifically regarding the variances for the fueling dispensers and electronic signage on the Bypass.
Podcast: Excerpts of the Discussion
The following is an edited 21-minute audio clip from the meeting. Also read Planning Commission Synopsis Presentation to BOS.
Allen Fidler, the Planning Commission Chairperson, will present the consensus of the Commission to the Newtown Board of Supervisors at the April 28, 2021, public meeting (see below). The Board of Supervisors is a party to the Zoning Hearing Board hearing on this application, which is scheduled to take place on May 6, 2021. The Supervisors can vote to oppose or approve this application or one or more of the specific variances requested. If it opposes, it can send its Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to argue its case.
"This application seeks first a special exception for use E-30, Motor Vehicle Fueling and Convenience. A majority of the members supported this request, but a minority do not support the new proposed use.
"The applicant is seeking 8 fueling pumps where 6 are the maximum permitted. The Commission was unanimous in not supporting all 8, but there was some support for the 7th pump, as this is de minimis relief, as five acres are required for one additional pump and the subject property is 4.95 acres. All were supportive of the extension of the canopy to cover the six permitted fuel pumps."
"The applicant is seeking relief for two monument signs within 1000 feet of the Bypass and two wall mounted signs on the building, also within 1000 feet of the Bypass. There were no objections to the placement of the signs, but discussed possibly locating one of the signs slightly farther west to alert eastbound traffic of the location."
"The applicant is requesting that the monument signs have LED lighted electronic gas prices. A majority of the members opposed this, particularly as the other gas stations in Newtown have sought and been denied the same variances."
"Most of the members had no objection to the number and size of any of the four proposed signs."
Mr. Fidler polled the members on the four questions with the votes below:
- Warren Dallas – supports special exception and extended canopy over six pumps. He does not oppose electronic signage for price of gas, only and abstained on size and location of signs.
- Craig Deutsch – supports special exception, extended canopy over six pumps, and the size and location of signs, but opposes two extra pumps and electronic signage.
- Mary Donaldson – supports special exception, extended canopy over six pumps and size and location of signs, but opposes two extra pumps and electronic signage
- Peggy Driscoll – opposes the special exception and all other variances
- Allen Fidler- supports special exception, extension of canopy over six pumps and the size and location of signs but opposes electronic signage. He would support a seventh pump, as relief is de minimis.
- Andrew Jacobs – opposes special exception, extra pumps and electronic signage but supports size and location of sighs and extended canopy.
- Joel Raab – supports special exception extended canopy over six pumps and size and location of signs but opposes two extra pumps and electronic signage.
- Amber Ray – opposes special exception and all other variances
- Kierstyn Zolfo – supports special exception extended canopy over six pumps and size and location of signs but opposes two extra pumps and electronic signage
"In conversation after the applicant left the meeting, the members discussed their votes and all agreed that if the service station/convenience store complied with the new ordinance, they would support a special exception. All felt that a great deal of work went into crafting the ordinance and would allow for a WaWa very similar to the Richboro location. All expressed concern that allowing electronic signage puts the other Newtown service stations at a disadvantage, as all have applied for electronic signage and been denied."