Super Wawa Controversy in Conshohocken

Wawa may be setting up shop in Conshohocken, but not before residents have the opportunity to voice their opinion at a public hearing tonight.

That meeting may get a little heated.

"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," said Brian Pieri, a resident and owner of The Stone Rose restaurant. 

"They are a great company, but they belong on a pike," Pieri said.

The borough is expecting a high turnout. They've moved the 7 p.m. meeting from the old borough hall to the Washington Fire Company to accommodate a large crowd. 

"Council will listen to residents and business owners on their thoughts on the matter," said borough manager Fran Marabella. 

Wawa is proposing an approximate 5,000 square foot "neighborhood-designed" Super store on Fayette Street at the site of the old Moore Chevrolet car dealership.

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

Conshohocken resident Vicki Tassoni says she's looking forward to lower gas prices. "I love Wawa."

"Our goal is to become community assets and compliment the communities we serve," said Wawa spokesperson Lori Bruce.

Sam Marino doesn't like the super Wawa idea at all. He lives right across the street from the proposed location.

"Personally, I don't want it. I don't want to see 600 to 700 cars going in and out all day. I may plant arborvitae (a tall shrub) in my front yard or even move," Marino said. He does admit, however, that if it does happen, he'd probably end up shopping there.

Marino's best friend Ed Schaffer is a supporter.

"I want it. I love Wawa. When I stop to visit my friend, I want convenience. He doesn't want the traffic." 

Wawa has been a part of the Conshohocken community for more than forty years, according to Bruce. She says 1,200 people have signed a petition in support of the super store. After opening, Wawa's plan includes adding 40 new jobs and making other contributions to the community, Bruce said.

Real estate developer Gary DeMedio said he's watched Conshohocken over the past 40 years go from a steel town to a blue-collar town and now then the conversion to the trendy, vibrant community it is today.

"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. "

About two dozen businesses formed an opposition group called Conshohocken Revitalization Alliance (CRA). One of their primary concerns is that the borough may change zoning ordinances for convenience stores and gas stations in order to appease Wawa.

At previous hearings about the Super Wawa, CRA members have countered claims by a traffic engineer that the store would generate a 7.5 percent increase in traffic.

"It was the Wawa plan that seriously caused a spark to get folks organized about the overall feel and larger vision for Conshohocken," said Pieri. 

"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.

Last month, Abington Township approved a plan to open a Wawa. Weeks later, the Cherry Hill Planning Board approved opening a Wawa too.

The company, which is headquartered in Wawa, Delaware County, Pa., owns and runs some 600 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and recently expanded their business into the Florida market. About 200 of the stores sell gas.

On their company website, Wawa lists plans to open an additional 21 stores this spring and summer. 

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