The city’s land-use panel plans to hold a special hearing in November to consider developer Bart Blatstein’s proposal for a Wawa with a gas station on the Delaware River waterfront.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment expects to meet at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 12 to consider whether to allow the store on the northeast corner of Christopher Columbus Boulevard and Tasker Street, a city spokesperson said.
The hearing had been scheduled for a routine session last week. It was postponed because the large amount of expected public participation would make it impossible to consider other zoning business at that meeting.
Blatstein’s plan was initially rejected by the Department of Licenses and Inspections because gas stations may not front on Columbus Boulevard under area land-use rules without a zoning variance. Variances are issued more sparingly by the land-use board than other exceptions.
The ban on filling stations along Columbus Boulevard is part of rules designed to bar projects that discourage pedestrian access to the river.
This year, though, L&I accepted a nearly identical plan after Blatstein had a street-facing strip of land declared a separate parcel, so that the filling station on paper would face the buffer and not the road. A driveway across the buffer would let drivers get to the pumps directly from Columbus Boulevard.
Inspectors accepted the parcel-splitting strategy, but instructed Blatstein that the pumps themselves would require a special exception, which the zoning board gives out more frequently than a variance. That is what the zoning board will consider at the November meeting. Special exceptions are required for gas stations in much of the city, not just on the waterfront.
Community members overwhelmingly rejected the plan at a meeting of the Pennsport Civic Association in September, with many neighbors vowing to attend the zoning board meeting to speak out against the proposal.
Representatives of the Delaware River Waterfront Corp., a city-affiliated nonprofit that oversees waterfront development, and the Central Delaware Advocacy Group, a coalition of river-adjacent neighborhood associations, also voiced opposition, saying the development would counter efforts to make the waterfront more inviting to walkers and cyclists.