Cooked Goose: Wawa Rejected (Again) by Conshohocken’s Planning Commission 3 to 1

Last night a developer, Provco Pineville, and Wawa went before Conshohocken’s Planning Commission in attempt to revive its three-time losing proposal to put a Wawa with gas pumps at the Moore property at 12th and Fayette. Since the proposal was first publicly announced in October of 2010, the proposal has been shot down by the Planning Commission (now twice), Borough Council and the Zoning Hearing Board. The old proposal is currently in court and the new proposal will now go forward to Borough Council.

The proposal to alter the zoning, as it pertains to the Wawa, is very similar to what has been proposed before. After the attorney for the developer and Wawa gave his presentation and answered questions from members of the Planning Commission, members from the Borough’s staff addressed specific concerns about the proposal. The attorney for the developer and Wawa acknowledged that they would accept the recommendations and comply.

After that, it was public comment. By our count it was eight against, one neutral and one for. We didn’t count the lawyer would spoke as a representative of the neighbors involved in the court case.

The most blistering comments came from David Bertram, who was the Chair of the Planning Commission when the previous proposal was before it 2012 and 2013. He no longer serves on it. Below are his comments:

I served on the Planning Commission from 2009 until early 2017 and was Chairman of the Commission in 2013 when Mr. Weiss and Wawa first appeared before it.

In 2013, the not-too-distant-past, many commissioners and board volunteers like myself, borough staff, and residents alike gave countless hours of our time to this address proposal.

I remember very clearly the opening remarks of Mr. Weiss on January 22, 2013 when he began to list for us everything that Wawa was going to bring to our Borough: gas, chips & candy, soda, ice tea, orange juice, eggs, milk… and it went on and on and on- literally, without exaggeration, listing upwards of 20 products that Wawa sells- as if perhaps this were to be the first store in the Commonwealth and we had never stepped foot inside one.  I don’t recall if it was the Commission- or the crowd of 150 +, or both that actually stopped him- pretty much yelling at him- he finally got the message and moved on.

I remember immediately finding it extremely irritating and obnoxious, thoroughly inconsiderate of our time, and it quickly gave me the impression that this man has his own agenda and everyone else’s concerns is room placed a far second to his own.

It  was the very beginning of this group’s tactics to wear us down- uncaringly consuming our time.  They have been rejected by the Planning Commission, the Zoning Hearing Board and the Borough Council- yet they persist.  Their crusade to wear us down continues- consuming our time and our tax dollars on legal fees.

By bullying us to change our zoning ordinance, what Mr. Weiss is doing is setting precedent for himself and his current and future clients to build the Borough that suits their pocket books. If this project is approved by Council and materializes, our Borough will be put on a course that will forever change it.   The natives of this Borough continually speak of the change that they have experienced in the past decades.  If this proposal is approved, the flood gates will have been cracked and these past decades will appear quaint in comparison to what’s ahead.

What I don’t know to be true and I cannot substantiate, but the “word on the street” if you will, is that with their relentless energy, deep pockets, and dollar signs in their eyes, Mr. Weiss and his client have managed wait until Borough Council has turned over enough members since 2013- and they have possibly identified enough new members who will ignore everything that came before today.  They’ve possibly identified enough Council members who will sell out the many hundreds residents who addressed this proposal with honesty, care, and intelligence just five years ago.

If this is at all true, it is absolutely reprehensible in my opinion.

Looking at the comments that have followed the recent posting of my comments from 2013 on More than the Curve, when my vote was to recommend that our Council not allow this project to move forward, has been disheartening to say the least.  Anyone who has allowed this immensely important conversation to be diminished to the point of discussing the quality of sandwiches or the price of gas have completely and utterly missed what is at stake here.  Make no mistake that McDonalds is waiting in the wing, rooting Mr. Weiss on as he struggles to pry the lock off of this floodgate.

What is going on here is nothing short of deplorable in my opinion and I hope that this Commission and the Council they serve understand the severity of this issue and continue to make as clear as they can to Mr. Weiss and his client that they are not wanted here.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

To us, it didn’t appear that the developer or Wawa cared about the outcome of the Planning Commission. Three out of the four current members of the Planning Commission are new to this issue.

In 2012 and 2013 there were two meetings before the Planning Commission on this topic and they went into more detail. One of the first things the attorney for the developer and Wawa stated last night was that they would like a vote that evening. There wasn’t much effort to sell the members of the Planning Commission (and remember three were hearing it for the very first time) on the benefits of the plan. It just seemed they wanted to get it over with and move on to Borough Council.

More to come.