ROBBINSVILLE — A proposal to build a Wawa with a six-pump gas station at 308 Robbinsville-Allentown Road, just west of the traffic light at West Manor Way, is expected to come before the Zoning Board of Adjustment later this spring.
Doug Harris of Balsam Properties LLC presented a concept plan on Feb. 6 to the township’s Technical Review Committee, a preliminary step before a formal application is made to the zoning board for use and design variances. The project calls for a 5,600-square foot Wawa on a 1.5-acre parcel that vehicles will be able to access from both Robbinsville-Allentown Road and West Manor Way.
Delco Development LLC, which has built other Wawa stores in New Jersey, is under contract to purchase the property from Balsam and develop the project, Harris told the committee. Two of Delco’s corporate officers, chairman William Juliano and CEO Thomas Juliano, also attended the meeting.
The Wawa project is similar to a concept plan Balsam informally presented in 2009 for a QuickChek convenience store. Harris said that project never moved forward because of the economic downturn and the NJ Turnpike construction project, which required the realignment and widening of the bridge on Robbinsville-Allentown Road. The roadwork near the property is now finished.
“We now have a new purchaser and a revised plan that is improved,” Harris told township officials at the meeting.
Pat McClellan, of MCB Engineering Associates, said the Wawa would have 45 parking spaces if the store faces Robbinsville-Allentown Road and 36 spaces if it faces West Manor Way. Parking would be provided on all four sides of the building. There would also be six fuel pumps, both gasoline and diesel, which would provide 12 fueling positions for vehicles.
The project would need a use variance because the Planned Commercial Development (PCD) zone does not currently allow convenience stores that have gas stations. The project would also need a bulk variance because the PCD zone permits 50 percent maximum lot coverage, while the proposed project would cover between 74 and 79 percent of the land, depending on which way the building is oriented, McClellan said.
The aspect of the project that generated the most questions, however, related to traffic flow in and out of the property at its two proposed entrances.
Traffic engineer Charles Olivo, of Stonefield Engineering & Design, said there would be only “right-turn-in and right-turn-out” access at the store’s Robbinsville-Allentown Road driveway.
Eastbound motorists on Robbinsville-Allentown Road would have to continue past the Wawa about 100 feet and turn left at the traffic light where they could access the Wawa from another driveway on West Manor Way.
Olivo said the a short turning lane could be created on West Manor Way where up to two vehicles could “stack” while waiting to turn left into the Wawa driveway. Vehicles leaving Wawa would be able to turn right or left onto West Manor Way, he said, noting that many customers will be headed to jobs in the warehouse district farther north on West Manor Way.
“This part of the development is critical in that it feeds into the synergy with the industrial that is down West Manor Way,” Olivo told the committee.
Township Engineer Tim McGough said traffic leaving Wawa was less of a concern than the traffic in the West Manor Way “stacking lane” waiting to enter the store’s driveway. Olivo said the short stacking lane wouldn’t pose a safety problem.
“The concern, and I understand it, is that we don’t want vehicles backing up into this intersection,” Olivo said. “So we know our burden certainly is to show you this works. The next step of this process will be for us to put together a very comprehensive analysis that shows that it can work.”
Harris and Olivo emphasized the project would benefit residential areas because the box trucks belonging to businesses in the industrial park would be able to fill up at the nearby Wawa service station instead of traveling through residential areas on Robbinsville-Allentown Road to reach the gas stations on Route 130.
The Wawa wouldn’t cause a significant increase in traffic in the area because most of the customers will be people passing through anyway to get to the Interstate 195 entrance on Robbinsville-Allentown Road, or to the businesses inside the industrial park, Olivo said. Studies show an average of 60 to 70 percent of a convenience store’s customers are already on route to another destination, he said.
Harris said the Wawa proposal likely would be ready to submit to the Zoning Board of Adjustment as a formal application later in the spring.
“We still have quite a bit of engineering and detail to do before we’re ready to make a full application,” Harris said.