Residents living in the Wincey Groves neighborhood in Horizon West voiced overwhelming opposition to the planned development of a Wawa gas station and a Sweetwater car wash during a community meeting hosted by Orange County Wednesday, Aug. 9.
The 16.9-acre subject property is located in Hamlin south of Wincey Groves Road and west of Avalon Road at the intersection with New Independence Parkway.
The property currently is zoned Hamlin West Planned Development and has a Horizon West Land Use of Retail/Wholesale District.
The first proposed plan by applicant Scott M. Gentry, Kelly, Collins & Gentry, includes a Wawa located within the specified district of the Horizon West Town Center. A gas station is a permitted use on the lot in the RW district. The second proposed plan by applicant Jim Hall, Hall Development Services, includes a 6,050-square-foot car wash located within the same district of the Town Center. A car wash also is a permitted use on the lot in the RW district.
The Wawa would be open 24/7; the car wash would be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Orange County Case Planner Laekin O’Hara said the proposal already has gone through the Future Land Use PD zoning and currently is a development plan application undergoing review by the technical review group.
She said neither of the applications has gained staff approval yet, so the site plans are preliminary.
In addition, she said the proposals do not move forward to a public hearing, so this was the only opportunity for public comment.
“We all bought in Wincey Groves when, yes, there was a plan that was proposed when we all moved in here,” one Wincey Groves resident said. “It’s nothing that we were shown that’s happening. It was supposed to be luxury this and luxury that and stores, and now we have apartments and apartments and rental townhomes and now a gas station. … It’s just not what we were told that we all bought.”
Wincey Groves resident Marc Fox said although he understands the gas station and car wash are permitted uses and he likes the project, he believe it is the wrong location.
Fox said he has concerns related to traffic, safety, hours of operation, light pollution and flood mitigation.
“Is the county going to require, as a condition of use, on-site security to ensure no alcoholic drinking such as from the gas station convenience store or no other improper after-hour uses?” he asked. “We don’t want to have noise disruption and other disruptions in our homes. … Why is such a large restaurant operation permitted so close to residential homes? … A lot of the operations seem to be 24-hour (for the Wawa), and that’s just not appropriate for this area.”
Scott Kearney, real-estate project engineer for Wawa, said the location was selected for the gas station because of the phenomenal future growth of the area.
“This intersection in the future condition is going to be so different than it is today,” he said. “We will be there to provide a service I think will be received by those that are going to be moving to this area. … This will be a use that would be expected to be there. … By the time this store opens up, and shortly thereafter, this area is going to be different.”
Another Wincey Groves resident said although she is a Wawa customer, she sees the gas station as being meant for a busy commercial area and not directly next to a residential neighborhood.
Alan Schneider, general manager at Sweetwater car wash, is aware of how close the development is to the neighborhood. He said all the current Sweetwater car wash locations are next to residential areas.
“We are speaking to our manufacturer to look for solutions that dampen that noise,” he said. “So, even though our blowers are going to be inside of the building, we are looking to address it. We’re even talking to another vendor that specializes in keeping that noise low; it’s one of our main concerns. If you go to any of our locations, we do have signs all over that say, ‘Please, no loud noise.’ We do enforce that. We do ask people to turn it down, exactly citing the residents in the area.”
Fox believes the project is 100% reliant on the expansion and extension of New Independence Parkway.
“I would hope that the county require two pieces,” he said. “One, is that the county not issue any equating permits until the road design for the expansion of the extension is approved. The developer doesn’t know, even though they’re paying for the extension, with 100% certainty that the county will approve the road as currently designed. … The second is that the county not issue any certificate of occupancy until the expansion of the Orange County portion of the extension is completed.”
Wincey Groves resident Tracey Price said because the Wawa will be the only gas station in the area on State Road 429, it will attract more traffic to the area.
“I would reiterate that the Wawa or the car wash helps fund some crossing guards on both sides of Avalon for all kids (who) are going to have to use that area,” she said. “The noise from the car wash … that car wash is going to be less than 150 feet from some of the houses in Wincey Groves, and those folks are going to have to listen to the blowers and the sprayers and the vacuums all day long, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. So, some folks want this because it’s going to be convenient; that’s great. I want another gas station, too, but the location isn’t really ideal. … What’s it going to do to the value of those homes?”
Price also mentioned her concerns about contamination in the water, drainage and light pollution from the gas station and car wash.
Another resident from Wincey Groves said his concern is safety for the local children.
“Throwing a big Wawa right at the outset of our community is going to maximize the amount of people that are coming from the frustration of the Walmart gas station being too small straight over to ours; I think that will increase the load,” he said. “It will also drive folks that come off the highway that see that Wawa, and it will be great for business, great for sales, not so awesome for us with pollution, noise, etc.”
District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson said although she thinks there’s no disagreement with what the developers are describing as far as goals from the county, she believes what the residents are saying is to implement all of the great items for design — but closer to S.R. 429.
However, the applicants said the space was not available.
The proposals will next go to the Development Review Committee, although a meeting had not yet been scheduled as of press time, Tuesday, Aug. 15.