Well I believe a lot can be taken away from last nights Revitalization meeting which basically covered a Minor Sub-Division on Hector Street which will bring 4 New Townhomes Similar to the ones built a few years ago. This subdivision is basically conforming asking for minor waivers and typical variances in which were a breeze considering the Tornado that waited in line next. I am sure that will be the easiest presentation that developer presents as all the built up anticipation had the crowd and board nervously waiting for what was coming next. To a packed house at Washington Fire House the Group assembled by WAWA to bring the Super Store to Conshohocken went through a detailed and thorough Sketch Plan detailing important points. Which I feel some were over looked at points due to the anticipation of the crowd to have their time at the podium. WAWA is presenting their typical branded store which do have a certain appeal, modern approach, and spread out design. The typical Brick, Brown/BlackCanopies, Glass Front Stores, Serving Pumps, Bike Racks, Sitting Areas, Landscaping Buffers, that anyone could expect up and down the east coast. The WAWA group is going into the project understanding a few important facts that might be missed to the normal home owner in Conshohocken. The Moore Site needs extensive earthwork and soil cleaning before they can even begin to imagine placing the first pebble in the concrete for a foundation. This ground is dirty and has been for sometime now and is not going to get any better anytime soon until someone with the financial and technical wherewithal arise to take on such a huge task. It seems as if first impressions would make me believe they have done the extensive testing and preparation necessary to make this happen. WAWA is a positive member of the community, county and most importantly a PA company with a wonderful corporate culture with growth and stability. When you think of large powerhouse companies you usually see greed, over extension, public offering disasters, franchise nightmares and loss of brand. WAWA has done an amazing job to be super profitable, stay a positive private family owned company that has not lost their direction through amazing growth.
Okay now I don’t feel as if I was as closed minded I found myself being last night while listening to the proposal presented by the WAWA team. I was closed minded… But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening to their presentation. For a presentation in it’s infancy and not even in front of a governing board it was pretty thorough and detailed. But sometimes at this stage details can create hurdles that wouldn’t have existed and even be deal killers. I fully believe in transparency and being upfront with details, but I also believe the fact the Revitalization Board had losing their NORMAL APPOINTED Solicitor as well as two of the Board Members prior to the meeting even starting was difficult for most. Business is Business I understand that as I have been in WAWA’s shoes many times and any path necessary to get the approvals is fair game as long as it is Morally and Ethically viable. I cannot speak to the reasons the board was down three members last night not to mention the stand in solicitor will be representing Conshohocken from here on out in regards to the WAWA development.
So what’s the real issue here… In my eyes and forming my opinion from basically everyone who approached the podium last night (basically everyone) we want the lot developed. No one in their right mind wants The Moore’s to suffer financially, the lot to sit vacant and or Conshohocken to have this eye sore. But going into the meeting expecting a zoning text amendment that allows a specific sight to have 90% impervious coverage, a built in Non Compete Clause (not allowing any other gas stations within 1000 feet), A large ILLUMINATED RED SIGN, Building Set Back Issues (to far back), and on and on is hard to swallow. I do understand the need to have limitations on zoning and while this text amendment maybe viewed as a type of spot zoning I can say it is a legal process. Usually in specific situations Municipalities loves this as it limits their exposure and helps their control on future use and stopping a specific use explosion. But I feel if it’s good for the goose it has to be good for the gander… I like the limitations of the use and specific caps placed on the zoning but is it fair for them to be the first in the door then nail it shut. I feel it sometimes hard to believe the open market theory in this situation as they want to use it in a context that works to get them approved and then clamp down the market surrounding them from any future similar uses. A key word used last night was “BY RIGHT”! This is not a “BY RIGHT” circumstance even though it might be replacing a non-conforming structure. Once that structure is removed it is now to be governed by the current zoning code and any grandfathering rights have been removed. So this is a lengthy approval process that I am sure will be heard in front of many many many hostile crowds and upset neighbors. The key to this process is obviously UNITY, STRUCTURE, FACTS and STAYING CALM. A hostile crowd looses all credibility immediately. I will applaud the group appointed to represent the WAWA group as they were as professional as they come. It isn’t easy to walk into a building knowing people want nothing more than you to just pack your computer, power points, and laser point up and go home. The key to really really being heard here is taking a page from them last night and showing them the same professionalism. It might be the loudest voice in the crowd that gets heard but it isn’t always the one people listen to, remember and respect.