Opinion | Campaign Issues in Conshohocken | Spot Zoning and Wawa

This is part of a series of opinion pieces on what we feel are important in the upcoming elections for seats on municipal councils and boards in the Borough of Conshohocken, the Borough of West Conshohocken, Plymouth Township, and Whitemarsh Township.

In the Borough of Conshohocken, the November 2nd election includes four seats on Conshohocken’s Borough Council and the position of mayor. Below are the specific positions and who is running:

Ward 2 – Richard Kosich (R) and Adrian Serna (D)
Ward 4 – Lori Burt (R) and Anita Barton (D) (incumbent)
Ward 5 – Rita Montemayor (R) and Kathleen Kingsley (D) (Kingsley is the incumbent, but was only recently appointed to the position after the resignation of Jane Flanagan)
Ward 5 – Christopher Dieckhaus (R) and Stacy Ellam (D)
Mayor – Mike Makoid (R) and Yaniv Aronson (D) (incumbent)

Spot Zoning and Wawa

An ordinance passed by Conshohocken’s Borough Council in 2017 to allow amend the zoning code to allow a Wawa with gas pumps along the 1100/1200 block of Fayette Street was challenged by two neighbors and deemed spot zoning by the borough’s zoning hearing board in 2019. The state’s second-highest court, the Commonwealth Court, recently upheld this decision and this decision has not been appealed.

The borough council had no obligation to consider amending the zoning code to allow the Wawa. This decision to do so, by a 4-3 vote, resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and a court determining that the borough council committed spot zoning which is considered one of the most egregious violations pertaining to zoning and planning.

No members of the borough council who voted to approve this zoning change are up for election in 2021. Their seats are either not up for election (Colleen Leonard, Tina Sokolowski), has resigned (Jane Flanagan), or isn’t running for re-election (Bob Stokley).

However, it is still an important issue.

The developers behind the Wawa may approach a future borough council to revisit amending the zoning code in a different way in an attempt to get the Wawa approved. This could lead to future legal proceedings and more money spent on lawyers.

So a question to ask the candidates knocking on your door is whether they would consider amending the zoning code to allow a Wawa. Remember to note that they have no legal obligation to do so.

For the mayoral candidates, ask how they would vote if needed and if they would veto any future similar ordinance. Since Mayor Aronson is an incumbent, you can also inquire as to whether he considered vetoing the ordinance deemed spot zoning and why he didn’t.