Gaithersburg Residents Speak Out Against Wawa Plans

Gaithersburg Residents Speak Out Against Wawa Plans

Express concerns about traffic, business competition

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More than a dozen residents spoke out Monday at a Gaithersburg City Council meeting against the proposed construction of a Wawa gas station and convenience store, which would be the first in Montgomery County.

The proposed site is the north side of Md. 355, across from Gaithersburg High School.

The residents’ concerns included the potential for increased traffic in and out of the property, harm to small businesses and the danger of large groups of students crossing seven lanes of traffic.

Wawa is a gas station chain known for its higher-end convenience stores that sell sandwiches, coffee and other specialty drinks. The chain has 840 stores on the East Coast, including 52 in Maryland, said Chris Hoffman, a real estate project engineer with Wawa.

The Gaithersburg store would be 5,060 square feet on 1.84 acres.

One woman said she has lived in the nearby neighborhood of East Deer Park for more than 30 years. She noted that there are three gas stations in the immediate vicinity of 405 S. Frederick Ave, where the station is to be built.

“They’re trying to squeeze a peg into a square hole,” she said.

Troy Parcelles, a business consultant, said he spent 25 years working in the gas station industry. He said gas chains such as Wawa and Sheetz are “hypermarketers” that quickly drive out the competition of other gas chains.

“There is already too much competition and gasoline saturation,” he said.

Attorney James Parsons, representing Parcelles, later said during the meeting that the location was the main issue, because Wawa is can sell 500,000 gallons of gas per month — far more than other gas chains.

“This obviously creates a high volume of customer traffic,” he said.

Parsons added that the large number of cars using the station will lead to more pollution in the immediate area due to greater fuel emissions. He also said he thought it would be dangerous for the high school students to cross a busy road.

“This location is not the right place for this facility,” he said.

Jennifer, a Deer Park resident who did not give her last name, said she was tired of seeing gas stations along the northbound side of the Md. 355 corridor.

“We don’t just want gas stations on that side. A drive-through Starbucks would be lovely,” she said. “I don’t want a gas station in my neighborhood. I want something nice, that my children can walk to and see other things without seeing a gas pump.”

Helen Irvine, a former owner of the property, said she was in favor of Wawa building on the site.

“You sound like you don’t want any profitable business. … I want something that people can use,” she said.

Irvine said the store will benefit nearby students.

“The area needs a place for the children to go and get a Coke,” she said.

The city council is scheduled to make a decision on the property at its Oct. 7 meeting.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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