Members of Cherry Hill Township Council said Monday night they do not want landscaped medians removed or altered at West Gate and Kingston Drives where they intersect with Route 70. The removal is a key part of the Barclay Farm Shopping Center's plan for a Super Wawa on a corner of the Route 70 plaza.
The board voted 6-0 for a resolution opposing the modifications and will notify the state Department of Transportation, which oversees the road design, that it does not want to see the medians changed. Councilwoman Carole Roskoph recused herself from the vote because she also is a member of the Planning Board, which will decide on the overall Super Wawa proposal. A Planning Board meeting date for the proposal has yet to be set.
Council President David Fleisher said the information about Council's opposition is being provided to the DOT, which he said has its own process for evaluating applications such as the Super Wawa. The Council protest is part of the DOT file and the documents speak for themselves, he said.
Township Councils usually avoid getting involved in individual land-use decisions that are heard and decided by Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Adjustment. In this case, the Council did not comment on the proposed Super Wawa, but instead directed its dismay at the developer's plan to eliminate the medians.
The medians were added by builder Bob Scarborough in the 1960s, when he built the Barclay Farm development. Some residents who oppose the Super Wawa have pointed to the murkiness of who owns the medians and who has the authority to eliminate them.
Barclay Farm Shopping Center lawyer Richard Goldstein, of the Cherry Hill office of Hangley, Aronchick, Segal Pudlin & Schiller, was indignant over the Council's last-minute consideration of the resolution.
"We had no notice or knowledge of the resolution proposed this evening…and were never provided with an opportunity to discuss with council why the proposed road improvements are so important to public safety before the resolution was placed on this evening's agenda," he told Council during the public comment portion of the meeting. "I believe the resolution is in response to concerns of a group of local residents. I do not believe it is in the overall best interest of our community."
Hortense Associates LP, which is part of Kaiserman Company Inc., a Philadelphia-based real estate company, owns the shopping center and proposes to demolish the old community movie theater — now a pet supply store — and the Barclay Pavilion office building to make way for the Super Wawa.
Kaiserman also proposes to buy a former home, now used as a professional office, on West Gate Drive and tear it down to install a driveway for Super Wawa. The increased traffic on West Gate Drive and turning patterns to Route 70 would require the elimination of the median, according to the plans.
Martha Wright, of Munn Lane and one of the neighborhood leaders protesting the Wawa plan, praised Council for passing the resolution.
"I appreciate the gesture and I am deeply committed to the character of each community and neighborhood values as very much reflected by these landscaped medians," she told Council. "I think it's a big part of what Cherry Hill is all about."
Even though the Wawa plan has yet to be heard by the Planning Board, the neighborhood group has mounted an offensive that included hiring a lawyer to represent it before the board. It also has an active Facebook page and website criticizing the proposal.
Wright also urged Council members to consider prohibiting any new gasoline stations in Cherry Hill.
"Gasoline is not the future. We are looking to green energy," she said.
Other 70and73 coverage of the Barclay Farm Super Wawa controversy: