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Loudoun planners say 'no' to Wawa, but supervisor says 'yes'

Tuesday - 5/6/2014, 9:39am  ET

Wawa hoagies in Loudoun? County planners say the proposal should be toast.

But good news for Wawa fans: Supervisor Shawn Williams, R-Broad Run, said the store is coming. And it's really his call, not that of staff.

The popular Wawa, Pennsylvania-based chain of convenience stores has struggled to enter the Loudoun market since last March when it first bid to rezone 2.83 acres at the intersection of Old Ox and Oak Grove roads for a new shop.

The proposal has never pleased planners, who have said consistently that a single-story, stand-alone retail use in the Route 28 business area is a no-go. Staff reiterated that finding this week, when it released a report detailing its recommendation to the Planning Commission of denial.

The rezoning is on the commission's May 20 agenda.

Wawa wants to build a 5,330-square-foot outpost, with 12 gas pumps, on a vacant lot located less than a mile east of Route 28, and a few blocks west of Loudoun's border with Herndon.

Loudoun County's "land use vision" for the Route 28 business area is for 100 percent office and flex uses with supportive commercial and retail built in. In no situation, staff concludes, is a single-story convenience store envisioned as the right use for this location.

"Further, the polices do not support single-story uses located adjacent to major roadways such as Route 606," according to the report. "Therefore, staff does not recommend approval of the proposed application."

Wawa wants its gas pumps beneath a canopy in front of the store, fronting Route 606. Loudoun staff wants the pumps behind the store, out of sight. Wawa wants a single story building. Staff, citing Loudoun's Comprehensive Plan, wants nothing less than four stories.

"We ideally want to have first-class office space in that corridor," said Williams, who will get his hands on the application sometime before the board's summer recess. "Ideally. That may take 25 years to get that use."

In the meantime, he said, why not have a quality convenience store, like Wawa, fill in the gaps?

A market study released in late January suggested a Wawa, at this location, would feed off of the 125,000 vehicles that pass through the Route 28 and Old Ox intersection, and the 4,800 businesses 74,914 residents, 20 million square feet of office space and 5 million square feet of flex space within a 3-mile radius.

No matter what the planning commission decides, the final decision on Wawa rests with the board of supervisors.

"I think they're coming," Williams said.

Six miles to the south of the Loudoun site, Wawa is working with the Peterson Cos. to open its first Fairfax County store off the Air and Space Museum Parkway. The Fairfax Wawa application is scheduled for a county Planning Commission review in mid-June.

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.