A “Super” Wawa Years in the Making?

The decision on whether or not to bring a so-called "super" Wawa to a small Montgomery County town already bookended by two Wawas was once again delayed Wednesday night.

Conshohocken's zoning board canceled a scheduled hearing on Wawa's plan for a superstore featuring gas pumps in the heart of the 7,800-person borough.

The cancellation comes after months of false starts as Wawa and community members waited for all five zoning board members to be present for a meeting.

Wawa's earlier plans were defeated by town council last spring but they since repackaged their proposal to take it in front of the zoning board.

The proposal to open the Wawa on a vacant car dealership lot in the heart of the borough drew plenty of debate since it first came about in 2010. It would be the third Wawa store in the area. During earlier meetings, some members of the community spoke out against it.

"Is this the way we want to look at our town as Wawa, Wawa, Wawa?" asked one woman.

"I don't think it's right for right here in Conshohocken," Mike Oraschewsky of the Conshohocken Cafe told NBC10's Rosemary Connors. "We've got a Wawa on both ends of town."

"There's more passion from the opposing side. But, it's a divided issue. It's hard to be passionate about bringing a Wawa into Conshohocken," Brian Pieri, a resident and owner of The Stone Rose restaurant, said. "They are a great company, but they belong on a pike."

Under the plan, a 4,150-square-foot "neighborhood-designed" superstore would be built on Fayette Street at the site of the old Moore Chevrolet car dealership.

"It's an eyesore right now, I think a Wawa would probably be a OK," said Natalie Adler, a Philadelphia resident who travels to Conshohocken every day for work.

"We believe that we are a community partner, a strong partner, not only to community causes but also to the local businesses and, of course, the residents in the area as well," said Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce after an earlier meeting. "Our goal is to become community assets and compliment the communities we serve."

The store wouldn't be a "Super Wawa" since it would be less than 5,000-square feet, according to Wawa and it would be far less than the traditional 100,000 square-foot "big box" stores like Wal-Mart.

Some opponents to the store believed the addition of gas pumps would have made it a Super Wawa in any case.

Some neighbors are worried about what the store could do to property values but they also say they likely would shop there if it opened.

Wawa has been a part of the Conshohocken community for more than 40 years, according to Bruce. She says 1,200 people signed a petition in support of the superstore. If it had opened, the plan would have included 40 new jobs and making other contributions to the community, Bruce said.

The promise of jobs and potentially cheaper gas, though, isn't enough to match the vision some have for Conshy.

Realtor and developer Gary DeMedio of DeMedio Keystone Realty said that he's watched Conshohocken over the past 40 years go from a steel town to a blue-collar town and now the  trendy, vibrant community it is today. He was concerned that the Wawa would take away from the town's uniqueness.

"We'll lose the small town feel. Wawa's a great family-owned company but it's just not a fit here," he said. "It's not all about gas prices or the store's popularity."

The Conshohocken Revitalization Alliance (theA) has fought against bringing th mega Wawa to town.

CRA spokesman Tony DeFazio said his group hopes to not see the larger food/gas store in the 1-square-mile borough.

About two dozen businesses formed the CRA to oppose the measure. One of their primary concerns was that the borough could have changed zoning ordinances for convenience stores and gas stations in order to appease Wawa.

"The main overall point is the town put a lot of time and effort into making Conshohocken more walkable with nice restaurants. The Wawa facility doesn't match that plan. They will stifle mom-and-pops," said Pieri.

The company, which is headquartered in Wawa, Delaware County, Pa., owns and runs 645 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. More than 365 of the stores sell gas.

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