A divided township board has approved plans for a Wawa store that faced opposition from residents here.
An online audience of more than 100 people attended the zoning board’s Zoom meeting Thursday night, and many spoke against the proposed project off Route 38 and Hartford Road.
Critics argued the 1.7-acre site off eastbound 38 was too small and asserted the store would create traffic problems.
The complex, with a 4,700-square-foot store and six fueling stations, also would wrap around a family-run gas station, Stiles Sunoco, that’s operated at the intersection for decades.
The Sunoco station’s operators, who had urged community members to fight Wawa’s plan, were the first to speak against the project.
“Competition is not our concern,” asserted Darlin-Jo Wilson, a township resident.
She said Wawa was “squeezing” its complex onto the site.
“Their plan requires too many deviations in too little a space,” she said of Wawa, which requested more than two dozen variances and waivers from the board.
The board’s solicitor, Evan Crook, said the board could not consider criticisms based on traffic fears. He noted highways surrounding the site are under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation.
The store also would have frontage on Walnut and Sixth avenues.
Some board members shared residents’ concerns over the property’s size.
“I’m not sure it’s a good fit. It’s almost like a Taj Mahal going on a postage stamp,” said Alan Kramer.
“I just don’t think the site is suitable,” added board member Brian List.
But the board voted 5-2 to allow a conditional use variance for fuel sales at the Wawa site, with Kramer joining the majority.
Members split 4-3 to grant site plan approval and additional variances, this time with Kramer joining the minority.
The meeting was the board’s third session with the Wawa project on its agenda.
A Dec. 2 hearing could not be held when more than 200 people tried to attend the board’s online session, overwhelming the Zoom capacity of 100 people.
A Dec. 16 meeting focused on a presentation by Wawa representatives,
“We look forward to moving ahead with the project and working on another location in Mount Laurel,” said Tyler Prime, an attorney for Wawa.
A one-story building on Hartford Road, the current home of Macro Equipment Co., is to be demolished to make way for the Wawa project.
Construction could be complete within six to nine months of building permits being issued, according to the developer.
Wawa, which is based in suburban Philadelphia, has almost 900 locations in six states and the District of Columbia.
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