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Plumstead will appeal Super Wawa court ruling


Plumstead supervisors will appeal the Common Pleas Court ruling on a proposed Super Wawa development by Doylestown II – Rt 313 TVC-ARC LP, a Verrichia Co. partnership at Route 313 and Ferry Road in Fountainville.

After hearing from concerned residents in a filled meeting room, they voted 3-2 March 28 to appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court with supervisors Brian Trymbiski and Nick Lykon voting not to appeal.

Supervisor Dan Hilferty said, “A township does not have to change their zoning to fit the business plan of a Super Wawa development.” He added that the judge erred in the decision when he put two different uses of commercial and gasoline station together. “A dangerous precedent would be set statewide if this order stands, and so it’s our responsibility to appeal it as a township,” said Hilferty.

“I oppose the appeal because I believe Plumstead’s zoning is exclusionary in this case,” said Lykon.

Back in 2017 Plumstead’s zoning office stated that the plan for a gasoline station does not conform to the Commercial-1 zoning, which

does allow retail use. The developer appealed to the township’s zoning hearing board stating that it was a retail store and a gas station secondarily. After lengthy argument by the developer’s attorneys from Eastburn and Gray, the zoning hearing board supported the township’s interpretation of the zoning use in September 2017 and said no to requested variances and zoning validity changes.

Then the developer responded with an appeal to Bucks County Court of Common Pleas to be decided by Chester County Judge Robert Shenkin to avoid a possible conflict of interest, since Bucks County Judge Jeffrey Trauger owned a property included on the plan. In March 2018, Shenkin decided that the township zoning “unconstitutionally excludes a legitimate land use” and that the developer is entitled to site-specific relief to have gasoline pumps at this location as a remedy.

According to Jonathan Reiss, Plumstead Township solicitor, Pennsylvania zoning law requires uses to be provided for and gives townships the legal authority to zone for size and intensity of those uses.

“Plumstead has provided zoning for convenience store with gas pumps in other possible locations in the township. Just because a Super Wawa of 4,500 square feet and 10 gas pumps does not fit into the site’s size and intensity constraints does not mean that the zoning is unconstitutional or exclusionary,” explained Reiss.

Residents at the meeting expressed concern about the gas pumps creating a public health risk because of possible leakage of tanks and benzene, a carcinogenic chemical in gasoline runoff from impervious surfaces into neighboring groundwater. The property lies in the Neshaminy Watershed and falls between the North Branch and Neshaminy tributaries, which supply the Forest Park Water facility of the North Penn Water Authority. Lake Galena and Peace Valley Park are within the watershed.

Tom Alvare, resident and former supervisor said, “Plumstead has a long legacy of natural land preservation and has spent $15 million on preserving land.” He implored the supervisors to appeal the decision to continue providing a safe and natural environment.

Steve Haycock, a Ferry road resident neighboring the property said, “If this is not appealed, this order would establish a dangerous precedent opening up the possibility of more supersized gas stations in Pennsylvania.”