Isle of Wight planners OK Wawa

Published 5:24 pm Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission is recommending approval for a proposed Wawa convenience store at Benn’s Church Boulevard and Turner Drive – with the condition that the company “submit an alternative intersection design” for the Turner Drive entrance “such as a single-lane roundabout.”

Kimley-Horn engineers had requested a conditional use permit for the gas station and store in October on behalf of Miami-based Frontier Development, but only recently submitted a traffic impact analysis.

According to county staff, the Turner Drive entrance as it’s currently proposed could cause queuing issues for drivers trying to exit the gas station and turn left toward Smithfield High School, particularly during morning peak hours when there’s heavy bus and student-driver traffic. The school is located less than a quarter-mile from the proposed Wawa site.

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Kimley-Horn’s analysis proposes to address the queuing issue by installing “do not block intersection” pavement markings, which would warn of a potential fine for motorists observed impeding traffic flow. But the county argues this would place the burden of enforcement on the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Robert Thornton, an attorney representing Wawa, the company is “considering” a roundabout as an alternative.

“That’s in the study mode right now,” Thornton said.

Despite the traffic concerns, the planners voted unanimously to recommend the project’s approval. The matter will head to Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors for a July 21 public hearing and possible final vote.

If the board gives final approval, Thornton estimated the project could see “shovels in the ground” by late fall.