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Render from planning documents

The Gaithersburg Planning Commission has approved the final site plan for a future Wawa gas station and convenience store on Md. 355.

The project has aroused the ire of some in the community since it was proposed two years ago, including an unsuccessful legal challenge from a community group.

The Wawa, reportedly the first in Montgomery County, would feature a 5,060 square foot convenience store with an adjacent gas station at 405 N. Frederick Ave. (Md. 355), opposite Gaithersburg High School.

In October 2019, Gaithersburg City Council approved a schematic development plan, or initial site plan, for the Wawa.

But a month later, a group of residents and businessmen filed an administrative appeal in Montgomery County Circuit Court arguing that the development application was not in line with the master plan because the resort- service was not “light commercial use”.

Further, the applicants argued that the Wawa was not “compatible with the residential character” of the neighborhood.

The Circuit Court determined that the project was consistent with the master plan, but ruled that the Planning Commission should have allowed cross-examination.

The case went to the Special Court of Appeal, which ruled in March both that the development was consistent with the master plan and that opponents of the project had waived their right to cross-examination. The appeal court’s decision this spring got the project going.

A few residents opposed to the Wawa project continued to voice their opposition at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

Carol Johnson said Wawa should consider installing electric charging stations instead of gas pumps, as she believes the use of electric vehicles will eventually overtake the use of gasoline vehicles.

“I think the future is here, and it’s really kinda silly to put all that money on gas…” she said.

Phillip Hummel, a land use lawyer at Miles & Stockbridge, said Wawa had considered incorporating electric charging stations into the project, but the need to prioritize water management rain and sidewalk space took precedence.

“It’s something that has been taken into account. It just couldn’t be easily accommodated due to all the competing factors involved, ”he said.

Walter Umana, who lives near the future service station, said he was worried about potential noise and light pollution.

“It’s a very quiet area. Gaithersburg being the City of Trees, we want to make sure it retains that feel, and with the wildlife around us, we want to make sure nothing is disturbed more than it should be, ”he said. he declares.

Monica Lozada said she also lived near the future Wawa site and wanted to know if there would be security cameras at the facility. Lozada also requested that additional bike racks be included in it.

Wawa real estate project manager Chris Hoffman said there would be cameras both inside the convenience store and outside the building. The property will be monitored 24/7 by a security team, he said.

“If there was a situation that called for an immediate police response, or moderate unrest that we would like to bring to the attention of our internal security officials, store staff have the ability to call upon these resources. if necessary, ”Hoffman said. .

Planning commissioner Lloyd Kaufman said the final site plan only includes enough bike rack space for around two bikes. He said he wanted to see more space on the bike racks to accommodate Gaithersburg High School students who might be making their way to the Wawa during a break.

Mira Gantzert, project manager at Bohler Engineering, said adding more bike racks is something that can be discussed.

“We can potentially look at the west side of the building, where there’s an existing 8-foot sidewalk, and potentially have one or two additional bike racks against the building, but there’s still 4 or 5 feet for pedestrians to walk past, ”she said.

Kaufman, Planning Commission Chairman John Bauer, and Commissioners Phillip Wessel and Sharon Cantrell unanimously approved the final site plan.

Dan Schere can be contacted at [email protected]