HAMMONTON — The Hammonton Zoning Board rejected an application by Bellevue Property Associates to build a 'Super Wawa' at the intersection of the White Horse Pike, Route 206 and Route 54.
The vote was 4-3 in favor of Wawa, but the vote required a supermajority of five afffirmative votes to pass, so the application was denied.
In his presentation to the Zoning Board Thursday night, Robert W. Bucknam Jr., the attorney for the applicant, said Bellevue could not build a store that would resemble downtown buildings, as required by the town's Form Based Code.
The code, which puts a premium on controlling styles of buildings downtown and on Route 54 leading to downtown, requires any structure at the site to function as a gateway to the downtown, and to physically look like a downtown building.
Acceptable building types were all multi-story, and would have to be built close to the roadway, like buildings are constructed in the downtown.
Bucknam said Bellevue could provide a gateway to the downtown there, with a “Welcome to Hammonton” sign and open landscaping, but doubted the state Department of Transportation would approve any building constructed so close to Route 30.
“Imagine putting one of these (downtown building types) up to the White Horse Pike,” said Bucknam. “That’s what this code requires us to do.”
Residents of the nearby streets and Zoning Board Chairman Gaetano Matro said they were concerned that increased traffic volume at the intersection would be a problem for the residential neighborhood around Elvins Avenue, and for the unusual intersection where Route 206 joins Bellevue Avenue (Route 54).
The company first applied to the Zoning Board in April for variances to build a Wawa and gas station there. The Zoning Board tabled it until the company could come up with better design plans.
The developer wanted more time to meet with community groups and to tweak the building rendering, project supporter Leeann Lahoud, of Egg Harbor Township, has said. Her family hoped to sell one of two lots to Bellevue for the project.
The proposed site, at the southwestern corner of the intersection, became part of a new Gateway GW3 Crossroads district when the town amended its master plan in 2011 and embraced a form-based code for its downtown and the main road leading to it.
The code helps protect the overall look of a community, especially in high-visibility areas, Planning Board Vice Chairman and Richard Stockton College geology professor Michael Hozik has said in the past. He led the effort to create the form-based code.
The Gateway district is intended to signal to motorists on the White Horse Pike that they have entered Hammonton, and to show the location of downtown, officials have said. It requires that newly constructed buildings look like buildings in the downtown area, located about a mile south on Route 54, also known as Bellevue Avenue — the main street in town.
Hammonton is one of the few places in New Jersey with a form-based code, according to Town Engineer Kevin Dixon, of Dixon Associates in Galloway Township.
"It's the first application in this district since the passage of the code," he said.
The Wawa application needed both use and design variances from the Zoning Board. Bellevue Associates wanted to build a 4,000-square-foot store and single canopy with six fuel pumps at the 1.6-acre site. The property is made up of two lots, now housing a closed gas station and the Midway Professional Center office building.