The Maplewood Township Committee passed three ordinances Tuesday night designed to pave the way for the development of a Wawa convenience store and gas station on Springfield Avenue near Chancellor Avenue.
The first ordinance (2793-15) defines gas service stations and convenience stores with fueling stations, and permits those located within a Highway Business Zone to operate 24 hours a day.
The second ordinance (2794-15) defines a convenience store with a fueling station, allowing a convenience store with a fueling station to be a permitted used within the highway business zone and also adds first-floor offices as a permitted use in the Pedestrian Retail Business Zone.
The third ordinance (2795-15) amends the township’s zoning map, reclassifying some properties from a Highway Business Zone to a Pedestrian Retail designation, ensuring that gas stations and auto repair shops would only be allowed to open up shop in those HBZ-designated areas.
Although two residents voiced their opposition to the 24-hour operation allowance during public comments, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said that the change was necessary for Wawa to move forward with the project. DeLuca also called the proposed Wawa convenience store/fueling station “a major investment by a very stable and good company.”
Committeeman Jerry Ryan added that the Wawa development would be key to revitalizing the area.
“That part of Springfield Avenue has been in need of something for some time,” said Ryan.
However, one resident of Marie Place near the 76 gas station said she was disappointed to learn that all stations would now have the option of being open 24 hours — due to the first of the three ordinances. The residents said she was against all 24-hour businesses in town, saying that they attracted a bad element and drug traffic.
DeLuca said that he had spoken with the operators of the 76 and they told him that they would not be seeking to add overnight hours unless the state of New Jersey allowed self-service pumping — an unlikely move. Even in such an instance, DeLuca noted that the 76 operators would need to submit a security plan to the Chief of Police and meet noise requirements.
Committeewoman India Larrier was the lone dissenting voice amongst the Township Committee members regarding the first two ordinances. Larrier was concerned about the amount of activity the 24-hour Wawa store and fueling station would bring to the area overnight. Larrier stated that, while she is not against development in the area, “I am against this business model.”
Planning Board Nancy Adams expressed concerns about the allowance for first-floor offices in one of the ordinances, saying, “I would caution against permitting things just to fill vacancies.” DeLuca said that the Committee would return to the question of first-floor offices at a later date, after consulting further with the Springfield Avenue Partnership, but said that he did not want to hold up the timing of the Wawa project due to a technicality that had no bearing on the project.
Moving forward with the ordinance as is was necessary, said DeLuca, to get “Wawa in the ground this year.”
The next step for the project is a site plan review by the Planning Board. The site plan had not yet been submitted as of Tuesday morning, according to Planning Board Chair Tom Carlson.