Discussions of E-30 Zoning Amendment
How Newtown is Dealing with Wawa's Plan for a Super Store on the Bypass
The Newtown Planning Commission and the Joint Zoning Council have discussed the proposed curative amendment to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO Definition) that would allow a new Use E-30 for a combined Motor Vehicle Fueling Station and Convenience Store within the Jointure Definition. All three members of the Jointure - Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield - must approve the final amendmentt before it can be incorporated into the JMZO. The process involves input from the Planning Commissions of the townships during and after edits are made at JZC meetings.
Read this excellent review of the E-30 Ordinance by the Bucks County Planning Commission.
Planning Commission Final Review
On September 15, 2020, the Newtown Planning Commission held its last review of this "curative" amendment. Not every member of the Commission was happy with its provisions. The vote was three votes in favor with reservations, one vote opposed, and four votes in favor without reservations. These results will be reported to the Board of Supervisors who make their decision at its September 23, 2020 meeting.
Solicitor Jerry Schenkman offered his appraisal of the final version of the new E30 Use: Combination Gas Station and Convenience Store (e.g., Wawa) in the OR District of Newtown:
Here is some background:
- “Lower Southampton - Another Township Considering Zoning Variances to Allow a Super Wawa Gas Station/Convenience Store”
- “Zoning Hearing Board Proposal for Lower Southampton Super Wawa Reconvenes on January 14”
- “Here's Where the Wawa on the Newtown Bypass Proposal Now Stands”
- “Municipal Cure" Cannot Prevent Developer From Putting a Wawa on the Bypass in Newtown Township”
- “If Wawa Comes to Newtown, Will It Be Able to Sell Beer & Wine Like the One in Middletown?”
- “Upper Gwynedd Township Versus Wawa: A Lesson for Newtown Township?”
- “Developer Wants Plumstead to Change Its Zoning to Allow More Gas Pumps to Fit the Business Plan of a Super Wawa - A Lesson for Newtown”
To date (8 July 2020), the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS), the Planning Commission and the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Council (JZC Definition) has discussed this proposed amendment at SIX separate meetings:
At the July 8, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Township Solicitor Dave Sander attempted to answer John Mack's request to clarify the timeline and next steps for approval of the final version of the E-30 amendment to the Newtown Area Zoning Ordinance that would allow a combination gas station/convenience store use. Mr. Sander argued that the draft amendment first be shown to Provco, which represents Wawa, for their review/approval before sending the finalized document to the Bucks County Planning Commission and then to the Boards of each of the Jointure's member townships. Recall that Provco is suing Newtown because it lacked such a use in any of its zones.
Mr. Sander argued that this "curative amendment" would have no bearing on the court case, which Provco can still proceed with.
Meanhile, at the February 6, 2020, Newtown Area Joint Zone Council (JZC) meeting, Jointure Solicitor Mary Eberle, of Grim, Biehn & Thatcher, told JZC members that the Commonwealth Court judges "beat up pretty bad" the lawyers representing Wawa at the Plumstead Township Board of Supervisors appeal. She advised the JCZ: "You are allowed to free your mind of the 5600 square foot minimum and the traditional Wawa layout" when drafting the E30 Ordinance to allow a combination gas station and convenience store in the Jointure. Listen to her comments here.
At the June 15, 2020, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, the Board reviewed the details of latest draft of the E30 "Curative Amendment" (Definition) to the Newtown Area Zoning ordinance. This amendment creates a new use for a combination gas station/convenience store (i.e., Wawa) in each township of the "Jointure" of Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield. Supervisor Mack asked how this amendment differed from the original "sketch plan" submitted to the BOS by Provco Pineville Acquisitions LLC, which is the Wawa developer.
Provco - the Wawa developer - has challenged Newtown area zoning because it does not have a zone that allows a combination gas station and convenience store. In a separate but somewhat related action, a "curative amendment" was proposed that seeks to find a zoning area for the use within the Jointure area of Newtown Township, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield (view the video here). Although Supervisor Calabro suggested that this is "protecting" Newtown, Township Solicitor Dave Sander said it does not apply to Wawa's substantive legal challenge to the joint municipal zoning ordinance previously filed by Wawa. Only if that challenge does not succeed will Wawa be subject to the Municipal Cure.
At the June 6, 2020, Newtown Planning Commission Zoom meeting, the members tried to understand the process and were frustrated that the township virtually has no choice but to give Wawa want it wants - i.e, modification of the OR (Office/Research) zone, which is along the Newtown Bypass, to allow a Super Wawa to be built there pretty much the way Wawa wants to build it - primarily due to the fact that Newtown does not have the funds to fight Wawa if and when it goes to court, a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, Wawa has the township over a barrel!
In addition, this will be by "exceptional use," not "conditional use," which means the Zoning Hearing Board - NOT the Supervisors - will have the authority to approve this use. The ZHB is not elected by the public, just sayin'
In a first-ever virtual Zoom meeting of the Newtown Township Planning Commission on April 21, 2020, the members discussed the latest version of the E-30 Ordinance - Convenience Store/Fueling Station - submitted by the Joint Zoning Council. In this 9-minute audio snippet, the members specifically discuss their consensus as to the maximum number of allowable fueling "pumps" and "stations".
Jointure's Views on "Fuel Pumps" for Proposed E30 Amendment
At the February 6, 2020, meeting of the Joint Zoning Council, representatives of Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield township – the “Jointure” - discussed the E-30 amendment to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance that was drafted by Newtown Township.
The following is an edited excerpt of that discussion focused specifically on the number of fueling pumps that would be allowed. This issue was raised by the Newtown Planning Commission, which suggested among other things that the maximum number of gas pumps should be eight with allowances for an additional four electric charging stations.
Meanwhile, Wawa's View on Maximum Allowable "Fuel Pumps"
The proposed amendment to the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO, Definition) that would allow a new "E-30" [previously designated "E-25"] use for a combined Motor Vehicle Fueling Station and Convenience Store was discussed at the January 7, 2020, Newtown Township Planning Commission meeting. This audio snippet gives an introduction to the process and includes comments from residents. According to Allen Fidler's subsequent report to the Board of Supervisors "There are some items in question including eat in dining, 24-hour operation and the size of the building. The members will continue to review the amended ordinance and bring additional concerns to be discussed at the next meeting."
The proposed ordinance to amend the Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO, Definition) to allow a new Use E-30 for a combined Motor Vehicle Fueling Station and Convenience Store was discussed at the February 4, 2020, meeting of the Newtown Township Planning Commission.
Mary Stover from CKS engineering attended the meeting to provide updates and answer questions about the JMZO. She reported that Wrightstown and Upper Makefield received the ordinance however they have not officially reviewed it. Their solicitors made some preliminary comments as follows:
- Change conditional use to special exception
- Consider prohibiting diesel pumps to discourage large trucks
- Prohibit the sale of alcohol and propane refill tanks
- Visual screen the entire area, beyond just parking and other areas suggested
- Limit the hours of operation if within 750’ of residential use or district
- Construct 8’ masonry wall if within 750’ feet of residential use or district
- Require indoor and outdoor security cameras that can be accessed by the township PD.
- Fossil fuel filters and shut off valves able to be to shut off from the site.
- Spill containment and prevention systems which meet or exceed all state and federal requirements
The Commission discussed each of these suggestions at length and agreed to wait until the other Planning Commissions in the Jointure reviewed the amendment before making any additional comments or recommendations to the BOS. The idea of having a joint meeting was also discussed. The following podcast includes edited audio clips from the discussion.