WARETOWN, NJ – Less than a month ago, upset patrons started a petition appealing to Wawa to reconsider the closure of its Waretown store. The Wawa’s not only sticking to its plans to close down the location. It’s also taking steps to stop any similar business from buying the property.
At last night’s Township Committee meeting, Township of Ocean Mayor Ben LoParo shared parts of a communication he received from Wawa corporate.
“Our next steps are to remove the building,” he read. “Then, our real estate team is working through the next steps to list the land for sale, with some deed restrictions.”
If all goes according to plan, the property located at 455 Route 9 will soon be a vacant lot. Wawa informed the Township of its intention to knock down the building by the end of August.
Anyone hoping for a new convenience store taking over the location will have a long wait. Wawa’s deed restrictions won’t allow any competitor to open up shop – for the next two decades.
“If you sell things like coffee and sandwiches,” said LoParo. “They’re not going to let you buy it.”
Ultimately, the property will go on the market for $600K. LoParo used a nail salon or a bait shop as examples of businesses that wouldn’t compete with Wawa.
Although Wawa will no longer hold a physical location in Waretown, the $10B convenience store giant intends to keep to their commitment to the community. “They will continue to help charitable organizations in town, “said the Ocean Township mayor.
During the Public Comments portion of the meeting, resident Shawn Denning, Jr. posed questions to the Township’s attorney concerning the limitations placed by the deed restriction.
“Is there anything we do to override the deed restriction?” he asked. Denning inquired whether or not the Township could exercise the eminent domain process to bring in a company such as Quick Chek.
Attorney Gregory McGuckin explained that invoking eminent domain only comes into play when a municipality intends to use the premises for a public purpose. “We could then condemn the property,” said McGuckin.
“A public purpose would not be to sell it to another company,” McGuckin continued. “It would be something like putting a park there or other public facilities."
McGuckin characterized the now vacant Wawa property as a “prime commercial corner.” He did not know if the governing body would be interested in taking the property for a public purpose.
Wawa’s former location is private property. Any attempts for the Township to include it as part of a redevelopment plan would also start with its condemnation.
“This would be very difficult to do,” shared the Township attorney. “You would need to prove that the property is so underutilized and in a dilapidated condition over a period of time to meet the requirements for redevelopment.”
According to McGuckin, the fact that the property has been a commercial business for years and that a new business may come in the future, matters.
“The property would have to remain vacant for at least ten years to consider moving in that direction,” McGuckin said.
Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.