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Penndel Council Approves Wawa, Rite Aid Plans

By Vic Monaco, correspondent | Posted: Monday, April 18, 2016

Penndel Borough Council voted 6-1 Monday to approve a plan for a Wawa and Rite Aid on 3 acres bordered by Lincoln Highway and Bellevue, Park and Lincoln avenues.

The latest plan reflects the borough’s desire to maintain parking on the east side of Bellevue north of Lincoln Highway, where a small restaurant and the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission Thrift Store are located.

The plan also offers the borough $20,000 for several lost parking meters, with the money to be used to continue the transformation of a building next to borough hall into a police headquarters.

The approval came despite concern from several council members and some residents over traffic changes, mostly banning left turns from eastbound Lincoln Highway onto Durham Road.

Project engineer Matt Hammond said the development team has gone through nine versions of the plan, and no plan will be perfect. But he said, the development will allow for many drainage and traffic improvements to the area including the dangerous intersection of Bellevue, Park and Legrande avenues and Durham Road.

“I’m not saying we’re fixing all the issues, we’re improving it,” he said.

Hammond also assured the council that by widening the north side of Bellevue, buses, trucks and fire trucks will be able to make that left turn from Lincoln Highway.

He and project attorney Tom Hecker stressed that nothing will be done without the approval of PennDOT, which has jurisdiction over Lincoln Highway and Bellevue.

If things go smoothly with PennDOT, ground could be broken this winter, Hecker has said.

The project has been in the works since 2012 by developer Tom Verrichia. The Wawa will comprise 5,605 square feet and would front Bellevue with another entrance on Lincoln Avenue. The 15,00-square-foot pharmacy will face Park Avenue. The project also includes 12 gas pumps under an 18-foot canopy and 105 parking spaces.

The developer recently changed the Wawa building plan from stone and stucco to brick and siding to give it a “softer feel” in accord with the borough’s vision for redevelopment, Hecker said. Rite Aid will use the same materials, he added.

Jumping on Vericchia’s offer to help the police department, Councilman Rich Flanagan asked if he would pay for a blinking warning light at Center Street and Lincoln Highway for fire department use. Hecker said the development team would look into that.

Councilwoman Barbara Heffelfinger voted against the project. She called the plan invalid because the developer has reached agreements of sale with only five of the seven property owners of the tract.

“I spoke to Mr. Thompson (owner of Thompson Motor Service) and he has no intention of selling, which makes the whole project out of whack,” she said.

Hecker explained that two of the property owners have given their approval for the municipal approval process to move forward and he is optimistic they will sell their land. That includes Thompson property along the entire frontage of Lincoln Avenue.

“He wants to keep his business private,” Verrichia said after the meeting in reference to Thompson.

If Verrichia is unable to secure those sales, the project would either die or have to be amended and the latter would mean the developer would have to resubmit plans to Penndel, borough solicitor Mike Savona said.

“Approval of the plan is not contingent on the sales. Proceeding with the project is,” he said.

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