Wawa’s continued expansion into Northern New Jersey may have hit a snag in the Brick City, as a local neighborhood association has gone to court to void approvals that were granted to the chain’s 24-hour convenience store.
Last summer, Jersey Digs broke the news that Wawa was planning a store at 1300-1346 McCarter Highway at the edge of the Lower Broadway neighborhood. The currently vacant property falls within Newark’s River Public Access and Redevelopment Plan and Wawa’s eventual application submitted to city officials called for a 5,000-square-foot store, 58 parking spaces, and 16 gasoline pumps at the 2.5-acre site.
Lisa Gray of the Broad Street Neighborhood Association told Jersey Digs that the group was against the Wawa, stating that the area “has seen drug selling and prostitution for many years” and “we are afraid a 24-hour business of this nature would bring back this activity.” Nonetheless, Newark’s Central Planning Board approved the plans on October 30 last year by a 3-1 vote.
A court challenge to the approval had been discussed and on May 22, it became official. Both Gray and the Broad Street Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit in Essex County Court against Newark’s Central Planning Board and Tonymar LLC, the owner of the Wawa property. They are seeking to void the approvals due to what they call a “series of fundamental procedural errors.”
Specifically, the group argues that Wawa’s application did not receive a required majority vote from the nine-person planning board. Eight members were present during the hearing of Wawa’s application and while three voted in favor and one against, the other four members didn’t vote on the application at all. Due to this, the lawsuit argues that the 3-1 vote does not represent a majority of the eight members present.
Besides that, the lawsuit argues that Wawa’s application required what’s called a “d-3” conditional use variance, which the group claims the Board of Adjustment has exclusive jurisdiction over. However, the planning board’s resolution of approval disagreed with this interpretation, as it specifically stated that Wawa’s potential use of the property is permitted in the zone.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the state’s Commissioner of Transportation was not provided proper notice of the hearing as they should have been under the law. Members of the public were also allegedly “cut off” and not permitted to offer their full comments on the application at the public hearing according to the suit.
What the future holds when the case heads before a judge remains to be seen, but the potential McCarter Highway Wawa would be the chain’s first in Newark if built. The company’s application said its construction would bring about 60 permanent jobs to the neighborhood.