HAMMONTON — A plan to build a new 24-hour Super Wawa convenience store and fuel station where the White Horse Pike, Route 206 and Bellevue Avenue converge has run up against the municipality’s new downtown plan.
The town Zoning Board voted Thursday night to table consideration of Bellevue Property Associates’ application for two use variances needed to move forward on the project.
In order to build the 4,000-square-foot store and single canopy with six fuel pumps at the 1.6-acre site, made up of two lots on the southwest corner of the intersection, the company needs variances for the type of business and the look of the building.
That’s because the intersection is in a Gateway Crossroads GW3 District created by the town in its Downtown Area Plan, an amendment to the Master Plan, at the end of 2011. It is intended to signal to motorists driving through on the White Horse Pike that they have entered Hammonton, and that the downtown business district is to the south on Bellevue Avenue (Route 54).
“The Gateway GW3 Crossroads District has an intent, to call attention to connecting this area and the downtown,” said Kevin Dixon, the engineer for the Zoning Board. “It is to be an annex or extension of the downtown.”
Currently there is a closed gas station on one of the parcels, which could reopen any time now that a pollution remediation project is complete there, and will do so if the Wawa application is denied, said Robert W. Bucknam, Jr., attorney for the applicant. There is an office building on the second parcel.
The Zoning Board asked Bucknam to come back with more graphic representations of how Wawa might create a gateway to downtown, and to better explain why it cannot put up a downtown-type of building on the site rather than the type of structure it usually builds.
Some at the meeting spoke against the application, pointing out that the Super Wawa facility does not meet requirements of the Gateway Crossroads District. The downtown plan envisioned a small, downtown-like area being built at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and the White Horse Pike.
Neighbors on Elvins Avenue expressed concern about increased traffic in their neighborhood, as well as how noise and light from the site would affect their homes.
But several residents spoke in favor of the Wawa proposal, citing the positive impact an expanded Wawa would have on the town.
“After 10 p.m. there is no gas station open in town anymore,” said Rick Sepe, whose family has owned the H&R Block franchise in downtown Hammonton for more than 40 years. “People who are leaving town after eating in our restaurants can’t get gas.”
He said the gateway to the community should be at the town line. “A lot of White Horse Pike businesses feel neglected today, “ he said, “the focus is so much on the downtown.”
In other business at the meeting, the Zoning Board voted unanimously not to allow On-Site Storage, located at 815 12th Street (Route 54) in Hammonton, to run a flea market for its renters out of its storage facility on weekends.
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