Response to Recent Wawa Flyer and Website
Unfortunately, after the denial of two virtually identical plans for a Super Wawa proposed to be located just after the railroad overpass on eastbound Sumneytown Pike in Upper Gwynedd Township, Wawa has chosen to place a misleading website online. The website suggests that the Township Commissioners and Merck illegally conspired against Wawa and largely ignores the serious traffic safety problems caused by the location of the chosen site, on the inside of a blind curve immediately after a railroad overpass. Although Wawa’s appeals will be decided in the normal fashion by the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, some response is necessary to ensure that the Upper Gwynedd Township citizens are not unfairly misled.
Responses to Misleading Statements
1. Statement: Upper Gwynedd Township Commissioners have worked behind closed doors with executives from Merck to block the Wawa proposal.
- Just like anyone else who would like to develop land in Upper Gwynedd Township, Provco Pinegood Sumneytown, LLC (“Provco”), the entity trying to build the Super Wawa, must comply with the Ordinances of the Township in order to ensure that the Township is developed in a way that is beneficial, and not harmful, to our community. Provco’s proposal contained numerous violations of the Township Ordinances and other applicable laws, especially related to traffic congestion, safety and vehicle circulation. Since Provco knows that its proposal doesn’t comply with our laws, they are now attempting to mislead the public about the supposed benefits of constructing a Super Wawa in that particular location when the objective facts indicate that the site chosen is not a good one for such a traffic intensive use.
- Like many of our other constituents, Merck took the opportunity to review Provco’s proposal when the Township published notice of it in the newspaper and on our website. Upon review, Merck had serious concerns, especially related to traffic, and requested a meeting with the Township to discuss them. We obliged and the Township had a single meeting with Merck at which a variety of their concerns, including traffic concerns, were discussed. The Township’s goal was not to oppose the Super Wawa plan, only to ensure that it was designed in compliance with the Township and State laws in order to maximize the protections provided in those laws for the health, safety and general welfare of the community.
Our Board commonly meets with our constituents to discuss issues which concern them, and this example is no different. Provco wants you to believe that something illegal happened in this meeting, but that is simply not the case.
2. Statement: Merck has tried to interfere with Provco’s real estate contracts.
- We do not have any information either way on what Merck may or may not have done in regard to any of Provco’s land purchase agreements.
3. Statement: The Township has spent thousands of dollars to oppose the Wawa.
- We are not opposed to having a Wawa in the Township. In fact, we already have two in the township and another close by in the Borough of North Wales. We simply want Wawa to take the safety of our community into consideration, to comply with our laws, and to develop in a way that is beneficial, rather than harmful, to our community. On the site chosen by Wawa, that is a very difficult task.
- Unfortunately, Provco’s insistence on pursuing their non-compliant plans (on an extremely difficult site for their proposed use) is costing the Township money because we have a duty to uphold the laws of the Township and the State. We believe that allowing Provco to install a Super Wawa that violates our traffic safety laws is short-sighted and that traffic safety, and efficient traffic flow through the Township, are two of the most important responsibilities we have as Commissioners. We believe that the citizens of Upper Gwynedd expect us to use their tax dollars to protect them from ill-advised projects that seek to circumvent our laws. The cost to alleviate the traffic congestion and safety issues caused by a Super Wawa in the chosen location is money and effort well spent for our residents.
4. Statement: The BOC Rejected the Provco plans even though the Planning Commission recommended Approval.
- While the Planning Commission did recommend conditional approval of Provco’s second proposal (they recommended denial of the first), they did so with the caveat that they made their recommendation without considering the traffic impacts of the proposal. It is the Board of Commissioners’ duty to review every detail of the plan, while the Planning Commission engages in a general review. Our Township Traffic Engineer identified numerous failures of the Super Wawa plan to comply with the Township and State laws, and we simply could not permit the impact that these violations would have had on our community.
5. Statement: The Commissioners attempted to enter into a “sweetheart” deal with Royal Farms.
- This is totally false. What is true is that Royal Farms received certain zoning approvals from the Township Zoning Hearing Board with a number of conditions. The entity proposing to build the Royal Farms didn’t agree that all of the conditions were necessary, and appealed to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. The Township, and the entity proposing to build the Royal Farms, entered into negotiations so that we didn’t have to litigate in Court, and could control the imposition of conditions in Upper Gwynedd (as opposed to in the Court). To the Commissioners, some of the conditions were more important than others in order to ensure the protection of the community from aggressively designed development. Therefore, the Board of Commissioners preliminarily agreed to relax some of the less important conditions, if Royal Farms would agree to increase some of the more important conditions. We never reached a point where all parties agreed and never came to a final settlement, before Royal Farms withdrew their appeal.
If specific examples of failures of the Super Wawa plan to comply with the Township and State laws are desired, the following could be cited:
1. The First Plan had 50 violations of our Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (the “SALDO”).
2. The Second Plan had 31 violations of the SALDO.
3. The violations included:
a. Of the 37 trees (with a diameter of twelve (12) inches or greater) proposed to be removed from the Property, the Developer only proposed nineteen (19) replacement trees (when our SALDO required all 37 of these large trees to at least be replaced with much smaller trees). Because of the intensity of the proposed development, there simply was no room for the additional trees.
b. The proposed stormwater management facilities were not designed to infiltrate rain water between 24 and 72 hours after a storm, as required by the Township Ordinances. In fact, the Developer indicated that some of its stormwater management controls might take up to six (6) days to infiltrate the water, which could lead to large areas of standing water and the potential for an overflow of the stormwater retention facilities if a second storm should occur.
c. In the second design, the western Sumneytown Pike driveway failed to comply with PennDOT’s required safe sight stopping distance, calculated by the Township Traffic Engineer to be 363 feet. That safe stopping distance was measured by the Township Traffic Engineer on Wawa’s plans as providing only 265 feet of stopping distance, which is significantly deficient, creating a chance that this driveway would be an accident concern, because oncoming traffic would not have enough distance to slow down or stop to avoid hitting exiting traffic from the Super Wawa.
d. In the second design, the eastern Sumneytown Pike driveway was too close to the intersection (of Sumneytown and West Point Pikes) to allow an exiting movement, and therefore had to be right-in only. This is because the rush-hour queue of the eastbound traffic in the through-lanes on Sumneytown Pike was predicted to be well in excess of 600 feet, and therefore beyond the point of the proposed western Sumneytown Pike driveway right-out egress. Placing a driveway in this location would be an accident concern because exiting traffic wishing to proceed north on Church Road would be required to make its way through two lanes of traffic just to get into the turning lane for Church.
e. There appears to be no point along the Sumneytown Pike blind curve frontage where egress could be safely accommodated for a development with this level of vehicular activity.
f. The Developer miscalculated, refused to update, and simply failed to account for the number of daily trips logically expected to be created by this Super Wawa, which is 5,184 trips per day.
g. The Developer failed to address the increased queuing (lines of waiting cars in the lanes of traffic) in all four directions at the intersection of West Point Pike and Sumneytown Pike created by the Super Wawa.
h. The Super Wawa as proposed did not provide any designated parking areas for oversized vehicles, including, but not limited to, parcel delivery trucks, landscaping trucks with trailers, recreational vehicles (“RVs”) and other large trucks, which could result in oversized vehicles parking in fire lanes and other inappropriate locations on the site. It was noted that many of the newer Super Wawa designs in the area do provide designated parking spaces for oversized vehicles. Most of the traffic problems not resolved by the Wawa design are the result of the chosen site being located on the inside of a blind curve created by the railroad overpass on Sumneytown Pike. The site is simply unsafe for any traffic intensive use.
i. All of the deficiencies with the plans are spelled out in detail in the two denial letters from the Commissioners and many are also mentioned in the letters received by the Township from its Planning Commission and professional traffic consultant.
Kenneth E. Kroberger
President, Board of Commissioners