Disgusting. Death trap. Corporate greed.
These were the words used by Holland residents last Wednesday to describe Provco Pinegood Northampton’s proposed “Super” Wawa at the intersection of Buck, Rocksville and Holland roads that a majority have been fiercely opposing for over a year.
The special meeting held by the Northampton Township board of supervisors was their final shot to make their voices heard, and over 60 locals adamantly shared why they think the Wawa would be a detriment to their beloved village.
After nearly five hours of heated public comment, which saw supervisors chairman Adam Selisker forced to slam his gavel quite a few times, the board ultimately sided with the public. Selisker, Frank O’Donnell and Kim Rose rejected Provco’s plan, while Eileen Silver abstained from the vote. Supervisor Barry Moore was not present and did not vote because of a conflict of interest.
O’Donnell stressed that the board’s vote only denied Provco’s current plan, which can be revised and presented again in the future.
Prior to the vote and public comment, representatives from Provco presented an outline of the proposed “Super” Wawa. The gas station and convenience store were to be situated on the 6.9-acre Wright property, with the “Welcome to Holland” sign directly in front of it. Current pictures of the property’s empty green space were shown side-by-side with a rendering of what the completed Wawa would look like.
One woman in attendance exclaimed, “That’s my neighborhood, why would you do this?”
Next, one by one, residents of Holland stepped up to the mic to denounce the project.
Overarching fears were that the “Super” Wawa would commercialize what was always a quaint town; traffic would increase and cause a dangerous atmosphere for children; small business owners who are just starting to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic would suffer; exposure from benzene, an industrial chemical found in gasoline, would cause cancer; and there would be an uptick in crime due to teens loitering in the parking lot, which some said happens at the Richboro Wawa.
Dawn White, who has lived in Holland on and off for 50 years, didn’t understand the point of having a 24/7 “Super” Wawa in what she described as a “sleepy town.” Resident Pam Duffey, who has been leading the charge against the project with her husband Gerry, and two sons Brett and Shane, was angry that the supervisors declared a state of emergency due to delayed trash pickups, but was considering “destroying Holland with a super gas station 70 feet from the closest neighboring properties.”
Brett Duffey added, “The future of Holland is quite literally at stake, the future of a quaint and bucolic village that our township is considering destroying.”
One commenter informed the board that several local business owners told him they heard the Wawa was a “done deal” by a supervisor. At this, Selisker jumped in to say, “No prior decisions from anyone on this board have been made.”
Following public comment, it was the board members’ turn to talk. Selisker reflected on how much hate was directed at him and the other supervisors over the last few months.
“We were asked to come visit the site and we did, and we got yelled at from the street. Pictures were taken of us and posted on social media. Horrible pictures with things that had nothing to do with us,” Selisker said. “Why? It wasn’t necessary. We hadn’t taken any action, yet you were angry with us.”
Rose echoed his sentiment and informed attendees that Northampton didn’t solicit Wawa to come to town. It was the other way around.
“We all care about Holland,” she said. “I work in Holland, I drive Buck Road every day. My pharmacy, cleaners, dentist, they’re all in Holland. So when people say that we don’t care, that is completely untrue.”
While Rose voted “no” on Provco’s proposal, she warned the public that this may not always be the case.
“Years ago, everyone fought against a Rite Aid in the same parcel,” she said. “I want everyone to realize, something is going to be developed there and it’s not going to be a park.”
As for Silver, she wished to clarify what she thought was misinformation surrounding the project.
“Criminal activity at the Richboro Wawa is not happening. I checked with our police chief,” she said. “Benzene is a problem, but no one has ever complained about a gas station … It’s 212 feet from the gas pumps to the nearest house, not 70 … I’m very disappointed in the way that we were treated up here. We have been volunteering for our community in every way over the years. We have accomplished many positive things. I do not wish to be threatened, and I have been.”
At this point, it’s unknown whether or not Provco will come back with a revised plan. If this happens, Provco and the supervisors will have their work cut out for them. Residents against the “Super” Wawa have become quite the force to be reckoned with. Not only did the group plan both an impromptu protest and rally, complete with a DJ and food, it launched an online petition that garnered 2,830 signatures and counting.
On the heels of the meeting, Brett applauded supervisors Selisker, Rose and O’Donnell for “courageously” siding with the residents, “proving that they are visionary public servants and true representatives of the people.”
He added, “This is a momentous win for the people of Holland as we feel vindicated that our staunch opposition to this intrusive project has paid off. Moving forward, we will continue to hold our township and corporations like Wawa accountable when appropriate. If Provco/Wawa comes back with a revised albeit similarly intrusive plan to our community, the people of Holland will oppose that as well. We will continue to fight for the sanctity and quality of life of the people living in Northampton Township. Nothing short of this is acceptable to us”.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org