Wawa, Inc. was granted approval at the July 5 zoning board meeting to use a 2.4-acre block of land off Route 28 near Chimney Rock Road to build an integrated gas station and convenience store upon final site approval.
Members of the board voted 8-0 to support Wawa’s application to bring a 25,000-square-foot gas and convenience store facility off the well-trafficked area of Route 28, diagonally across from the UPS sorting center.
“I am for the application and think it will be a tremendous improvement over the current status of the site,” said board member Lee Schapiro.
Representatives from the gas and convenience store retailer said the high traffic site is ideal for its North Jersey growth plans.
“Our focus in the past has been in the South,” said Mike Redel, a real estate engineer for Wawa. “We are looking for sites like these with good traffic on them.”
Wawa’s attorney, Tim Prime, said that the company is requesting a D1 variance, which seeks relief for retail uses, which is not permitted in an M1-A, or manufacturing, zone. There are also eight bulk variances being requested for items such as setback, improved lot coverage and a fence.
“The sale of gas, however, is a permitted conditional use in this zone in Bridgewater to the extent that Wawa is an automotive service station,” Prime said. “Wawa, however, would not meet all the requirements of conditional use, hence we are here for D3 variance for the sale of fuel at this location.”
The Wawa location—identical to 600 others throughout New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia that offer gas, food and sundries—will provide 16 fueling positions and will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
In addition to Ridel, Prime introduced planner Paul Phillips, traffic engineer Gary Dean and site engineer David Wisotsky to help support the application.
Although these experts took time to explain their professional opinions on such points and the size of parking spaces, traffic flows and site suitability, board members continually focused on potential traffic issues and traffic safety.
“If you have just one car in the morning that wants to make a left turn down there, and you get a pile-up of cars all of a sudden that want to get to Route 287, there’s going to be a major backlog in that Wawa parking lot for just one car,” Schapiro said.
Initial site plans call for one 30-foot-wide access point to the facility on and off Route 28. Apparently thinking that a single location ingress and egress point would add to traffic woes, some board members suggested a second egress off the rear of the facility onto Chimney Rock Road.
“I think you are trying to squeeze an awful lot into that area,” said board member Evans Humenick.
Dean, however, said that he had extensive conversations with the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the county about formulating traffic patters around the site.
All manner of ingress and egress points are regulated under the state highway access management code—specific criteria for how close a driveway can be to a corner, width of a driveway and proximity to a common property line.
“We discussed all manners of access around this site, including the desire to have access to Chimney Rock Road,” Dean said. “The DOT concluded that the site did not need the access although it is highly desirable. We thought it was best to move forward under the assumption that we won’t have that access.”
Wawa must submit final site plans before receiving approval to build. No date has been set for the approval hearing.