Wawa has decide to no longer pursue its proposed project at the gateway to Media Borough at the former Media Inn vacant lot and Media Real Estate, the developer for the project, has pulled the application.
Vice President of Administration and Development at Media Real Estate Jeffry Cadorette said that Media Real Estate, which owns the vacant lot, has withdrawn its application with Media Borough.
"Wawa is no longer pursuing the site as an option, so we stopped the process," Cadorette said. "Right now, we feel like we've been hit in the stomach. We're very frustrated and disappointed (with the borough)."
Wawa Public Relations Manager Lori Bruce offered this statement Friday:
"The application for the Wawa store on Baltimore Pike has officially been withdrawn because the planning commission did not support the re-zoning necessary to build a Wawa store in this location. We are disappointed that the commission did not support the request, but as always remain fully committed to following the process set forth by the borough. We consider Media our 'hometown' and will continue to explore options for development in Media."
The Media Borough Planning Commission recently opposed a zoning request change regarding the vacant property. A small portion of the lot is currently zoned R3-Residential and would need to be changed to Business in order for any project to move forward there.
Although Media Borough Council or Planning Commission had not yet voted on Wawa's application, Cadorette said, it was clear the majority of borough council did not approve of a Wawa at the proposed location, bordered by Baltimore Avenue, State Street and Providence Road.
"It was clear from day one that the majority of borough council didn't want a Wawa there," he said.
Media Borough Council President Brian Hall said the application withdraw was "very unexpected."
He said borough council had concerns about the project, especially concerns about an increase in traffic, but all signs that the project was continuing through the process were apparent.
"It's surprising that there was a commitment there and mid-way through the process they withdrew," Hall said.
The planning commission made several plan suggestions to Wawa, including a change of business model by suggesting outdoor sitting at the convenience store, solar panels and an electric car charging station, when Wawa brought its formal application to the commission in November.
Hall said borough council had expressed its concerns about the project but had expected to see a version of the first proposed plan to come before the planning commission and then borough council for a vote.
When a developer submits a formal application, the application must first be approved by the planning commission, which then recommends approval or denial to borough council.
"I expected to see changes to the project by the end of the process," Hall said. "Our role is to make decisions based on the information we have and I'm not sure what the project would have looked like by the time it got back to council."
Cadorette said when Wawa submits an application in most towns it sometimes receives opposition from the public but almost always has municipal support.
"We're used to some opposition or lack of public support and we deal with that," Cadorette said, "But it was opposite here. We had public support and didn't have municipal support."
No development project ever has immediate, unanimous support, he said, but based on polls and networking with the public, Media Real Estate believed there was public and business support for this project.
He said the Wawa project would have been viable for Media Borough, bringing tax revenue, new jobs and would enhance Media's gateway and promote State Street businesses and events.
"Out of respect for this large corporation that considers Media its hometown, it would have been nice if the borough at least had a conversation instead of slamming the door shut," Cadorette said. "I really think it's a loss for Media."
Cadorette said Media Real Estate will "let the dust settle" before they consider another option for the property.
Requested Zoning Change
The Borough Planning Commission recently opposed and recommended to Borough Council to oppose a zoning request change regarding the vacant property. The re-zoning was expected to be on borough council's December legislative meeting agenda.
A small portion of the lot is currently zoned R3-Residential and would need to be changed to Business in order for any project to move forward there. The same small lot portion was originally zoned for business until a 1989 re-zoning initiative that changed it to residential.
Cadorette said the zoning request change will continue through the process since it stands independent from the Wawa application.
He said the small portion of the lot needs to be changed back to business zoned in order for any project to move forward.
"It's obviously a parking lot, not a residential lot," he said.