A proposed Wawa convenience store and gas station on Route 34 south would not attract as much traffic as the existing Wawa up the road on Route 34 north and would nearly identical to the store the chain recently opened in neighboring Neptune Township, a Wawa official told the Board of Adjustment Wednesday.
But some members of the board weren’t necessarily warm to the idea.
A representative from Wawa, which is eyeing land at Hurley Pond Road and Route 34 south, told the zoning board at Wednesday’s regular meeting that the proposed 4,000-square-foot store and 16-spot gas station would likely see roughly the same amount of traffic as the newly opened store on Shafto Road in Tinton Falls, but have the same convenience store as the new location on Route 66 in Neptune.
Wawa also said the proposed store would leech about 5 percent of its customers from the already busy Route 34 north store, located near the Route33/34 circle.
CJS of Wall is bringing the application, which also includes plans for a 3,000-panel solar energy farm on property behind the proposed Wawa. No part of the solar energy farm was discussed Wednesday.
Art Bernard, a planner who later testified in favor of the Wawa proposal, touted the benefits to the surrounding businesses and the town. The land is zoned for office use. CJS is asking for the board to grant a waiver to allow the Wawa.
“I think the use is quite compatible with surrounding land uses and will result in little to no change in levels of service regarding traffic and the use provides a valuable service,’’ Bernard said.
Board member James Gray questioned Bernard’s assessment.
“I’m having trouble understanding, really, the positives,’’ Gray said. “Cars aren’t konking out from lack of gas stations on Route 34, so I’m trying to understand the positive criteria.’’
Gray said there were plenty of places to get gas in the area, and that office parks, like the one directly across from the proposal, often have restaurants in them to serve workers. Gray said he didn’t understand the benefit of having another Wawa on the state highway.
Gray said “it would be a pretty major departure’’ from the township’s master plan, which calls for office parks all along that portion of Route 34.
Following Bernard’s questioning, the board took a five minute break to let CJS decide what it wanted to with its remaining time. CJS conferred and decided to close for the night.
The next hearing will be held April 4.