After hours of expert testimony and several passionate comments from residents, the Abington Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance late last night amending the Abington zoning ordinance by creating a new use to be known as “motor vehicle fueling center,” subject to certain criteria in "Planned Business" zoning districts.
The approval essentially gets the ball rolling for Provco Goodman’s development of a 4,900 square-foot Wawa with a fueling station at the vacant parcel in the 800 block of Old York Road, near Baeder and Hilltop roads. The company submitted development plans to the township yesterday, according to director of planning and code enforcement Larry Matteo.
The board passed the ordinance by a vote of 7-6. Abington Commissioners Robert Wachter, Richard Gaglianese, Wayne Luker, Stephen Kalinoski, Carol Gillespie, Peggy Myers and Carol DiJoseph voted yes; commissioner Dennis Zappone abstained from the vote and commissioner Lori Schreiber was absent.
Prior to the special meeting last night, the ordinance was rejected by both the Montgomery County and Abington Township planning commissions.
Developer Bruce Goodman’s attorney Michael Savona said the “fueling center” use isn’t a new one regionally, but said that Abington is lacking it. He said it would be “a positive welcome to the Abington zoning scheme, filling a void and benefitting a blighted site.”
Due to the criteria in the new ordinance, only three other parcels in the township would qualify as a “motor vehicle fueling center.” One criterion is that a parcel must have been used for an automobile-related service in the past.
To read the whole ordinance, see the pdf section above.
Fewer than 10 residents spoke in favor of the ordinance. Many of them lauded Goodman’s previous development projects and said that they were tired of seeing a blighted site.
Many more residents spoke out against the ordinance ... and the Wawa. While many of the residents said they would like to see the site developed, most said the Wawa project is too big for the shallow parcel. Some residents were upset with the extra traffic the store would generate, some were bothered by the fact that the Wawa will be open 24/7 and others were worried about the safety of the children who attend the Jenkintown Day Nursery, which is adjacent to the property.
Things got heated several times during the hearing: One resident screamed at Commissioner Thomas Bowman after Bowman said that the daycare’s traffic and parking problem is “their problem.” Another resident said if a child were to be killed due to increased traffic in the area, the “blood would be on the [commissioners’] hands.” And resident Peter Morse who was “filibustering” against the ordinance, according to DiJoseph, had to be physically removed by an Abington Police officer.
Following the vote, several residents in the audience were heard booing and muttering under their breath.
The ordinance goes into effect in five days.