It may have been jumpstarted by plans to build a second Wawa in Hatboro, but April Fox-Regan said it won’t end there.
Fox-Regan, who almost singlehandedly drummed up enough support for a yet-to-be-incorporated Hatboro Residents’ Association, has big plans for the nonprofit group she hopes to have registered within the coming months.
“We have everything in place for a good town except a residents’ association,” she said. “It’s like a missing piece.”
And, with the addition of that last piece of the puzzle, Fox-Regan said she hopes to “survive the turmoil around the Wawa situation” and continue to branch out to help her town with historic preservation efforts, town beautification, cultural and artistic events, quality of life concerns and more.
“We’re not here just about Wawa,” she said.
But, at the moment, the convenience store’s plans to buy a trio of historic properties – including the Old Mill Inn and the building currently housing Spa Escape - knock down all but the former grist mill and build a six-pump gas station on Horsham and York roads, is definitely at the forefront. During last week’s meeting for the fledgling Hatboro Residents’ Association, Fox-Regan said 65 people showed up and “everybody was enthusiastic and participatory.”
Together, she said the team of would-be association members have divvied the borough into 14 zones and plan to go door-to-door soliciting signatures for a petition opposing Wawa.
“You can sign it or not,” Fox-Regan said of the “old-school” way in which her group intends to collect signatures of borough residents of voting age. “So many people in the community are asking us to do something about Wawa.”
Fox-Regan said the group is also making a "friends of Hatboro" Wawa petition for non-residents to sign.
"So many friends from Horsham and particularly Upper Moreland consider Hatboro to be their hometown too," she wrote in an e-mail to Patch. "No organized plan for those neighborhoods has yet been made, but suggestions and volunteers are welcome to contact Heather Hamilton, our email and map expert (or me)."
Since the mere mention of another Wawa in Hatboro first came to light last month, residents have been divided over whether a shot in the arm to the borough’s tax base would be worth the loss of 18th century buildings, increased traffic and the addition of a commercial business in a residential district.
In an unscientific poll on Patch, 74 percent of the more than 700 total votes indicated that respondents were in favor of a second Wawa, while 21 percent opposed it.
Far from a done deal, Wawa has yet to file a formal plan with Hatboro. If and when plans are filed, the developer would need to be granted a variance by the zoning hearing board in order to build a commercial business in a residential zone.
Wawa Regional Real Estate Manager Susan Bratton told Patch she did not have a timeframe for when the store might be built or opened.
“We wanted to introduce the concept,” Bratton said following last month’s council meeting. “We’re putting our toe in the water.”
But, before the convenience store giant can submerge its foot, Fox-Regan and her supporters intend to be there, petition in hand, to try to thwart the development.
While Fox-Regan had suggested previously that borough residents align forces to buy the Old Mill Inn and the adjacent property from TD Bank for the $899,999 combined asking price, she said she’s not so sure that could happen.
“I’m just one person. Our group is so young that it’s growing and changing every day,” Fox-Regan said of her idea, which initially grew from a January Patch article about the Greater Hatboro Chamber of Commerce canceling its First Friday events. “We’re taking it a day at a time.”
In the end, whether Wawa comes or goes, Fox-Regan, a third-generation Hatboro resident, said she wants to encourage as many people as possible to get involved.
“It’s about having people come together and have a voice,” she said. “The town belongs to the people who live there.”