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Hatboro Residents Take On Wawa

A crowd filled Pennypack Elementary School Tuesday night to challenge plans to build a new convenience store at Horsham and York roads.

A petition nearly 1,000 signatures strong could stop the proposed for Horsham and York roads in Hatboro before plans formally get underway.

That was the sentiment shared with a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 Hatboro residents opposed to the potential demolition of centuries old buildings to make way for a 5,102-square-foot convenience store with six gas pumps.

Leslie Jones, in addressing Wawa representatives on hand Tuesday night at , said the campaign of the newly formed has so far collected 978 signatures against the plan.

“And the drive is still in full force,” Jones said. “Will this knowledge affect your decision to purchase the property? Yes or no.”

After briefly consulting fellow Wawa representatives seated at the table beside him, John Zaharchuk of Summit Realty Advisors, the developer heading up the project, acknowledged that opposition could impact the eventual outcome.

“We don’t even have the property under agreement right now,” he said. “That does weigh into the decision.”

After the roughly two-hour meeting, Zaharchuk told Patch the decision “would be made by the entire development team” and that he did not know at what point the Pennsylvania headquartered convenience store giant would be prepared to walk away.

Wawa officials have not yet filed plans with Hatboro to build the proposed store and when asked by Patch Tuesday, representatives said it was “too soon to tell” when plans might be submitted. Generally speaking, the development process takes about six months, Wawa representatives said. However, since the site Wawa is considering is zoned for residential use, Wawa would need to apply for and be granted a variance from the borough’s zoning hearing board.

Residents broached that issue, as well as quality of life concerns dealing with increased traffic and the impact to neighbors living literally feet away from the property. and the loss of nearly were the topics that drew ire from many in attendance and seemed to unify the oft-applauding crowd.

“I can’t believe you’re going to destroy it. I just can’t believe it,” said Bruce Smith of the planned demolition of the building currently housing and two adjoining properties. “We have to cherish the value of these buildings." 

Others pointed out that one of the structures will mark its 300th birthday in 2015 when Hatboro celebrates its tricentennial.

“How does that show respect for our community?” Heather Hamilton asked of plans to demolish it. “It doesn’t.”

Preliminary plans involve the preservation of the shuttered and flood-ravished , Zaharchuk said. When pressed for specifics on how that would be done, he said, “To indicate what we might do with the Old Mill is a little presumptuous.”

The first floor of the building is unusable, he said, but the hope is that the second and third floors could be salvaged.

“A use must accompany the structure to ensure long-term preservation of the building,” he said.

Linda Clauser, the owner of the , said Wawa is not the enemy.

“Somebody’s selling the property and selling that property to them,” Clauser said, addressing residents. “I don’t think the Old Mill could look any worse than it does now.”

Based on comment after comment from residents opposed to the Wawa, Clauser appeared to be in the minority – at least of those present Tuesday night. In a poll on a previous Patch article, 73 percent of 745 respondents said they were in favor of a second Wawa in Hatboro. 

The properties

Besides the hope of preserving the Old Mill, which Zaharchuk said would be “up to the borough” in terms of who would own it, the Wawa proposal includes the demolition of the building currently housing Spa Escape, as well as a former nursing home and a residential property on the rear of lower Horsham Road. Of the residence, Zaharchuk said he did not know if the property owner was in favor of having their home torn down.

“We haven’t had any direct communication,” Zaharchuk said after the meeting. When asked if the owners knew of Wawa’s intent, Zaharchuk responded, “I suspect they do.”

Traffic

Residents shared anecdotes about traffic jams, inability to pull out of their driveways during rush hour and plans to avoid the intersection should the Wawa come to fruition.

Traffic engineer Jennifer Walsh said that if Wawa moves forward, 10 surrounding intersections would be studied as part of the project’s overall traffic study. Counts would be taken during morning peak hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and afternoon peak hours of 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

It’s required of new developments to “mitigate the impact to what they were operating at before,” Walsh said, adding that Wawa customers would likely amount to drivers already on the road. The store, she said, is not expected to generate a significant number of new trips.

Flooding

Wawa representative Joel DelliCarpini said a reduction in the site’s existing impervious coverage, as well as additional stormwater management controls would help to “mitigate the impacts” of flooding at that heavily flooded intersection, where dumpsters floated away, vehicles were left stranded and the Old Mill Inn endured the brunt of the storm.

“Water takes over,” said Tracy Thatford, a .

DelliCarpini said the hope is to “alleviate,” not “correct the flooding issue.”

The future

If Wawa’s plans move forward, Wawa Regional Real Estate Manager Susan Bratton said the store would pay an estimated $30,000 in annual taxes and would employ 40 to 45 associates. Roughly half of the employees would be full-time and would receive benefits, she said.

When a resident asked how much financial benefit the corporation currently reaps – or stands to reap - Bratton said, “We do not share that data with anybody.”

In terms of the existing North York Road location, Bratton told Patch that Wawa reps would “evaluate” whether or not to keep the 23-year-old store open.

Later, when residents pondered similar questions, Bratton seemed to hint that the older store, sans gas pumps, could be closed.

“As we mature in a marketplace we are building new facilities and frankly closing older facilities,” Bratton said. “That’s the beauty of real estate.”

But, if the same were to be true of the new site, with its proposed gas pumps, what could the land be used for years down the road, Catalina Mladim asked.

“Have you done any studies in terms of life beyond Wawa? What happens if this is not successful?” Mladim asked, referring to at least one shuttered gas station on Easton Road in Horsham. “How many gas stations have ever been converted to something else?”

HomeTownHatboro March 02, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Here is an idea I want to put out there. I read an article on patch a while ago about how the borough is look at fixing up or building a new police station. what they should do is buy this property and either fix up the building next to the spa and make that their police station or knock down the spa and build it there and keep the other building around it. This way that whole end of town could be a nice entrance to hatboro with the town hall a police station and the old buildings. Plus then the police could be right out on york rd. Plus some of the old history if not all would still be there
Toni Kistner March 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Bottom line: our Borough Council will do what is right for its residents, home and business owners. How many businesses will be adversely affected by a big convenience store moving into town to undersell their products and cost them customers? How many homeowners will lose their property values all along Horsham road and the surrounding neighborhoods? Too many for Boro Council to rightly approve the needed ordinance changes, I'm sure.
EE March 02, 2012 at 12:47 AM
boro, first TD bank owns two of them an i am sure they are financially stable.As far as the "stop Wawa people" you should really do some research on the HRA before you speak, you sound like you are related to certain Boro Council members.The HRA are not here to just stop Wawa.They are in the processes of doing many good things in the Boro.Everyone knows the economy is bad now but to have so many vacant buildings in our community is a result of poor management from our elected officials.You should be asking our elected officials for answers and stop trying to twist things.You are more than welcome to come to the next meeting.The HRA is trying to help. Do you do anything to help this community?April is trying to get involved an help the community that she grew up in.She is not out to stop the sale of a persons home.She is trying to save a historic property,trying to preserve what our town has to offer.Many people already donate money,time or clothing to the less fortunate.How do you know she doesn't already help other?.How much do you give?I myself give clothing ,money and time to the less fortunate.This is bigger than just April.She may have started the ball rolling but their is a large thankful group backing her that work very well together.
EE March 02, 2012 at 12:58 AM
A few weeks ago i made a post on here that Wawa would not be a draw to bring people from other areas to Hatboro.I was wrong!A freind found out what our community is going through an called me.A super Wawa was built in a community new his home.He informed me that with a rise in sales of diesel vehicles Wawa will now be installing diesel pumps in all their new fueling stations.That will be a draw for people to come to Hatboro and they will be driving dump trucks,tractor trailers an other large diesel vehicles 24 hours a day.
Toni Kistner March 02, 2012 at 01:54 AM
...of course, that is assuming that our own Zoning Hearing Board would grant the ordinance/variance changes to begin with - and I doubt they would, as they are fellow citizens. The Chamber wouldn't support this threat to local businesses either....that would be detrimental to the business district and their peers....and Wawa stated the other night that they don't take local governments to court if they don't approve variance changes.
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Jason, if you are on FB, check out Hatboro Life. In the photo album, there are copies of the petition. If you want to print and sign, we can figure out a drop off point. or....You seem like you'd contribute good thoughts to the Resident's Association. Come out to the next meeting on March 22 at Lehman Church. You can drop off your petition then and share your ideas.
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Hi Chelle! That's a good point. I like the Wawa in town. You can actually walk there in a power outage. Additionally, Wawa (one business) will probably provide less tax revenue than three thriving businesses on that corner and will be less of an environmental hazard. If people are patient and work hard (which we all know can be rare these days...which is why convenience seems to matter over substance), we can draw preservationist buyers and get people into those buildings. Spa Escape is a wonderful thriving business. Why not do a little hard work, save our buildings and get those charming boutiques and restaurants in a year or so. By the way, it will take 2 years to get this built, on my best estimation. In that time, if Hatboro works together, we could fill those buildings.
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:32 AM
I believe the property taxes are in the 30,000 range. How much of that goes directly to Hatboro? And how much tax income would three thriving businesses get on that corner and not just one??
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Yes, progress. Progressing towards what? That's the question we have to ask ourselves.
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I think boro buzz voted 400 times. And the Voice, and Keyser Soze. So you three guys are the silent majority. Too bad for the rest of us, you're not actually silent.
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Let's do the math again, Jane. There are about 3000 homes in Hatboro. 8000 residents. Many of those residents are children. So, if there are 3000 homes, that means there is at least one adult in about one third of homes in Hatboro that oppose the Wawa. And the HRA hasn't even finished collecting signatures.
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:40 AM
hey boro buzz, when TD bank closes down from us boycotting them, I hear they're going to open a grumpy old man store so you should be happy!
Mary Cummings March 02, 2012 at 02:44 AM
EE, it was a bit understated at the meeting, but Wawa was clear that they are going to close down the in-town Wawa. It's part of their corporate model now. They were eluding to re-purposing or selling the store to another business.
Dolores Forget March 02, 2012 at 03:03 AM
The people who own these properties and pay taxes own them under the current zoning, its the current zoning that is holding them back from a quick sale, not the HRA. While we are on the subject of petitions, I think I will start one calling for you to use your real name on Patch -- and see how much you have to say then.
GetOffMyLawn! March 02, 2012 at 03:04 AM
I love the smell of diesel fumes in the morning... smells like... (cough cough)... sorry, can't breathe.
GetOffMyLawn! March 02, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Junior - go rock on with your bad self. Print up that petition! Focus your energy on something constructive. Atta boy. Now get back to your homework.
GetOffMyLawn! March 02, 2012 at 03:12 AM
And still no responses from our nuke-the-old-crap-in-our-town faction...
GetOffMyLawn! March 02, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Who do we talk to so we can get a Grumpy Old Man Store in town? Damn straight, I'd shop there.
April Fox Regan March 02, 2012 at 03:36 AM
The Penna Historical Museum Commission just published the results of a comprehensive study that links historic preservation in working class, blighted communities like Hatboro with economic revitalization. Although counter-intuitive to established ways of looking at historic preservation, which has been seen by some as a luxury or anti-revenue, the study revealed that historic preservation stimulates the local economy and boosts property values, which are the bread and butter of small town income via property taxes. Additionally, hist. pres. helped residents hurting in a sagging economy by boosting the value their most important asset -- their homes. The results were so striking that it has been proposed that PA will roll out a new program encouraging hist. preservation as the cornerstone of an economic growth program across the State. New tax incentives are being proposed. Here is the link to the study: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/historic_preservation/3741
GetOffMyLawn! March 02, 2012 at 03:52 AM
This is why SHE gets in the newspaper and gets sh** moving in this town. If you noisemachines actually put as much effort into doing something good for this town as you do cranking bile into this forum, you might actually make a difference too.
April Fox Regan March 02, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I think the White Billet would be terrific as a police station -- not sure if it is suitable structurally, but aesthetically and location-wise, that would be great.
indiana jones March 02, 2012 at 02:21 PM
yes. buzz and offspring - pray tell what are you doing to improve life in our quaint borough? anything at all? or just being negative nancy and poo-poo-ing all those who actually DO something. put your money where your mouth is and get off your behind or zip it. the HRA is a group of pro-active and intelligent people who are motivated for all the right reasons. there is absolutely NO reason to have a wawa at this location. not one. flooding. traffic. property values go down. increased loitering and crime. bulldozing 300 year old building. already have convenience stores and gas stations in close proximity. i can't wait to see buzz jr's petition. and how he/she plans to band together with the 4 other people in the borough who want a wawa here. lol
GetOffMyLawn! March 02, 2012 at 04:41 PM
And I'll circulate a petition to open a Grumpy Old Man store.
indiana jones March 02, 2012 at 04:57 PM
@getoffmylawn - LOVE it. :)
EE March 02, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Thanks Mary,i must have misunderstood.That just means one more vacant building because of Wawa.
borobuzz March 02, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Hmmm, sounds like fuzzy math to me. I hope you don’t do your own income tax return. Chances are you don’t pay them anyway. I understand the autopen has been very active lately.
GetOffMyLawn! March 02, 2012 at 11:35 PM
(groans) Thanks for adding to the productive dialog there, buzz.
borobuzz March 03, 2012 at 12:00 AM
My pleasure, G.O.M.L. Nice to see we can all be civil. Now feel free to go back to watching the History Channel and sniffing mothballs.
GetOffMyLawn! March 03, 2012 at 02:40 AM
We all need our vices.
GetOffMyLawn! March 03, 2012 at 02:43 AM
I'm still WAITING for an answer... (I guess they're all too busy bashing to notice a legitimate question)

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