Gas station at Wawa denied for Cozzens Lane location

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By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

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NORTH BRUNSWICK — The addition of fueling stations to the existing Wawa convenience store on Route 27 and Cozzens Lane was unanimously denied by members of the North Brunswick Zoning Board of Adjustment, citing detrimental effects to the surrounding neighborhood, traffic and safety concerns.

North Brunswick Partners, LLC provided testimony during a special Zoning Board meeting on Oct. 25 regarding the existing store located in the C-1 commercial zone, which would have been demolished and replaced with a new, 5,051-square-foot store and six islands with 12 fueling stations for gasoline and diesel fuel.

“We want to stay in North Brunswick. We want to stay here. We like the location. We like the store. There’s a definite need for more fueling. There is not a gas station in the immediate area,” Timothy Prime, the applicant’s attorney, said during his opening remarks.

Residents, however, took issue with the fact that seven other gas stations are located within a mile’s radius of this particular location; traffic is already troublesome; and residences nearby have wells, which caused concerns about possible contamination.

In terms of safety, site engineer Mark Whitaker ensured residents that the fiberglass piping and tanking would be protected by a double-walled system that has mechanical leak detection. He said that an electronic overfill protection alarm activates when the gas tanks are 90 percent full and shuts them off at 95 percent capacity.

“There’s no chance of it not being detected and leaking through the second wall,” he said.

He also said the low-flow nozzles would prohibit tractor trailers from refueling at the location; signs indicating such would be posted on the property.

Civil Engineer Elizabeth Dolan said that “the traffic characteristics are expected to be consistent” and that Wawa locations with and without gas pumps are busy across the board, not contingent upon the service stations themselves.

“This type of land use already caters to the type of traffic on site,” she said. “The general volume characteristics aren’t going to change. They may swing.”

Despite the expert testimony, almost a dozen residents spoke out against the plan.

Michael and Judith Delanoy cited a plan in 1995 for a gas station at the Wawa that did not go through. However, North Brunswick Zoning Officer Michael Proietti clarified that Wawa had withdrawn its application for the gas station at the time and that it was not denied by board members.

Nonetheless, the Cozzens Lane residents said that police reports show 148 incidents responded to by police since 2015; garbage overflow from the site; and concerns about children at a nearby bus stop being endangered by an increase in vehicular traffic.

“I just don’t see where this is improving quality of life,” Judith Delanoy said.

Delta Court resident Henry Santana also focused on the safety issue.

“How am I going to teach [my twins] how to ride a bike if I’m going to have a gas station in front of my house, because there’s cars all over the place?” he said. “How can I let my babies, take my dog out, [without] worry[ing] about having an accident?”

After three hours of testimony and public comment, the Zoning Board unanimously denied the application.

“I feel the C-1 zone does not permit service stations. I don’t think the arguments were strongly in favor of a service station,” Zoning Board Member Joe Policastro said.

“I don’t think the site is particularly suitable for the applicant’s proposed purpose. I think it’s too small. I think there are circulation concerns. I do think there’s added traffic. I do think the proposed use will impact the neighborhood in a detrimental way. I think the neighbors voiced some concerns,” Zoning Board Member Thomas Abode said.

“I love the Wawa. I go there frequently. But, adding a fueling station will exacerbate what is already a borderline traffic problem. The Wawa has become part of our community, a place where we encounter friends and neighbors, but I question the need for a fueling station. If we didn’t have seven other stations in the immediate area and this site was more appropriate, I think it would work. I don’t see the need, and I definitely think it would be a detriment to the public’s good,” Zoning Board Vice Chairman Tony Chedid said.

Wawa’s next step in terms of appealing the decision, building a new convenience store regardless or possibly relocating out of North Brunswick since the application was denied is not yet known. According to Prime, no decision has been made on the project as the developer is considering all of its options.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

 

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