Wawa expansion plan in Montgomery faces signs of opposition

Rocky Hill plans to fight move to its border

By: Jake Uitti
   MONTGOMERY — There are plenty of signs that Wawa’s application to move to a new site on Route 518 is generating opposition in Rocky Hill.
   As the Montgomery Township Planning Board gears up for a second round of testimony on Monday for the convenience store’s application to move 550 feet east on Route 518 near the border with Rocky Hill, many residents of the historic borough have erected lawn signs decrying heavy traffic and potential well-water pollution.
   Borough officials, adamantly opposed to Wawa’s plan, have hired professionals to testify against the move.
   The new Wawa, proposed at the former Princeton GammaTech site, would include a 12-bay gas station and parking for 50 cars.
   Wawa representatives say the gasoline pumps and storage tanks conform to state Department of Environmental Protection regulations and they are not asking for any variances in their application — a situation, a township planning official said, that makes the application harder to turn down.
   Among the lawn signs are those reading "No new Wawa" and "Village not a Highway."
   Wawa’s traffic expert Kenneth Fears, however, maintains that Wawa’s move from the intersection of routes 518 and 206 will reduce accidents at the intersection.
   Mr. Fears also said that an easement road included in Wawa’s application is already in the township’s Master Plan. He said the road will reduce wait time at the intersection by allowing drivers to enter Montgomery Shopping Center from Route 518 without having to go directly though the congested intersection.
   Township traffic consultant John Rae agreed with that conclusion.
   At Monday’s meeting, the Planning Board is scheduled to hear more testimony from Wawa, as well as hear from Rocky Hill residents and experts in hydrology and traffic testifying on the borough’s behalf, borough Mayor George Morren said.
   There is a possibility that Monday could be the last hearing on the Wawa application, Planning Board Chairman Steven Sacks-Wilner said, depending on the testimony.
   Wawa, according to www.newjerseygasprices.com, a Web site that lists the cheapest gas prices in the state, currently has some of the lowest-priced gas in New Jersey. That, some borough residents claim, coupled with the convenience store itself, may attract an assortment of unwanted highway traffic.
   Wawa has done everything the township’s Design Advisory Committee, which includes professional architects, has asked, Mr. Sacks-Wilner said.
   The Planning Board meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the municipal courthouse.