Town of Herndon opposes Loudoun County’s first Wawa

Wawa is among the creme de la creme of convenience stores, but Herndon officials aren’t thrilled that the chain wants to open its first Loudoun County outpost roughly one-tenth of a mile from the town’s border.

The 5,330-square-foot store is planned for a 2.8-acre parcel on the Northwest corner of Old Ox Road (Route 606) and Oak Grove Road, east of Route 28.

Pennsylvania-based Wawa Inc., in the initial application it submitted to the county last October, said the store would generate $43,000 a year in real estate taxes, $130,000 annually in sales taxes and 469 daily weekday trips.

The store, according to the application, “will be an attractive and needed addition to Old Ox Road,” with the upper portions faced with brick, the lower portions faced with stone and the 12-pump fueling area covered by a steel canopy with a seam metal roof.

Market studies, according to Wawa, conclude “that this area is underserved by the proposed use.” The store will have two access points, one from Old Ox and another from Oak Grove. Wawa has agreed to install a traffic signal at the busy intersection.

“We are certainly happy to have Wawa in Loudoun County, and we’re going to support their application and help them through the process,” said county Supervisor Shawn Williams, R-Broad Run, whose district includes the Wawa site.

A few blocks away, however, the feeling it not mutual.

Herndon “generally welcomes a Wawa” in the vicinity of the town, wrote Elizabeth Gilleran, the director of community development, in a letter to Loudoun’s project manager. But only if the store is incorporated into a larger planned development. Herndon does not want a stand-alone building suggestive of “piecemeal strip development.”

Loudoun planning documents suggest retail in that location should be part of a larger office or mixed-use project and the Comprehensive Plan does not encourage stand-alone retail.

Addressing that issue, Wawa, through its attorneys at Walsh Colucci Lubeley Emrich & Walsh PC, responded March 12 that the Wawa property cannot be consolidated with others to achieve an office cluster because neighboring parcels already have been developed.

The larger issue in this case is long-term planning. Route 606 and Route 28 will be heavily developed in the future as Metro’s Silver Line passes nearby. Herndon is concerned that Loudoun County lacks a strategy for the corridor and fears the “possible inadvertent creation of a ‘stop and go’ congested strip similar to many suburban areas in northern Virginia.”

The town wishes “to be very clear,” Gilleran wrote, “that Herndon does not support the establishment of the Wawa as a freestanding use.”

But if Loudoun does permit Wawa to build there, she said, the county should prohibit access from Route 606, carefully control lighting and glare, shift open space to the front of the site and demand a higher level of design. Herndon would like to see, for example, a “heightened regard for detailing and materials, such as additional brick and fully delineated cast stone architectural elements.”

“The County clearly foresees expansive development and redevelopment in this vicinity,” Gilleran wrote. “It is anticipated that the site design and architecture of this future development will be of a much higher quality than the current built environment along this portion of Route 606.”

Wawa’s cultlike followers would likely argue the chain will bring exactly that to Old Ox Road.

The Wawa applications, one for a special exception and another for a rezoning, are scheduled for a Loudoun Planning Commission hearing June 18 and a Board of Supervisors hearing on Sept. 11.

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