Not in My Backyard - Wawa Debate in Hatboro, PA

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Real Estate - Montgomeryville AB066108

With the recent Wawa debate debacle in Hatboro, it begs the question:

How do retail establishments affect residential real estate?


If you’ve been watching the evening news or reading, you probably have heard tidbits of the tug of war between town residents and Wawa Corporation on proposed new stores next to neighborhoods. 

It’s currently happening in Hatboro and Cherry Hill, NJ.  So, how do these retail entities really affect the value of residential real estate? 

Not in My Backyard - Wawa Debate in Hatboro, PAMany of the residents in both of these towns have voiced how they will be affected by noise and traffic next to a non-stop 24-7, 365-day business.  The strongest opinions usually come from the neighbors whose homes abut the property that Wawa is looking to build Super Wawas on. 

And, with good reason, for they have the most to lose and I’m not talking just financially, but also in quality of life.  You don’t often hear about the house that sold for more money than a comparable home because a corporation bought the land right next to it to build retail.  If anything, you hear the opposite, or at least I do. 

I work with homebuyers every day.  They will usually provide quick, negative feedback if the home is located next to traffic lights, train tracks, retail, gas stations, even churches. Indeed, real estate is still about location and external factors. 

I’m going to do some step aerobics on my soap box now to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Price You Pay.” Ready? 

The home values next to a proposed Wawa will most certainly be impacted no matter how much re-design, engineering and resident input takes place. From its corporate website, it declares that Wawa is committed to being a good neighbor and to becoming an integral part of each community.  I believe that, for the most part, and I’ve seen it first hand. 

I’ve been a volunteer at Operation Brotherly Love, a charitable event benefiting families during the holidays where Wawa is a leading partner and participant.  And I know the stores help with fundraising and donations to local sports teams, schools, etc.  These are all good neighborly qualities.  But how do they help the people who are their immediate neighbors?  Why not take it a step further? 

Wawa’s website claims that 9,000 of their 18,000 associates have a 30 percent ownership stake in the company (an employee stock ownership plan).  There is no way to calculate how much a homeowner’s property value decreases when a Wawa is built right next door, but what if that homeowner received a kickback like the employee? 

Wouldn’t it help offset some of their financial loss?  The residents would have to live with the noise and light pollution around the clock. Isn’t that worth something?  Or better yet, why not give the option of buying the homes at fair market value and create a larger buffer area of green space between the store and the next home?  What about putting solar panels on the store and give the homes around it free electricity?  Home buyers are always looking for benefits in features that best suit them.   

In Hatboro, there is not only opposition from neighbors, but if the plan evolves, a historic building (the first home of Hatboro) would be demolished that currently houses a vibrant small business (without around-the-clock hours). Again, this is only if Wawa purchases the property and is granted a zoning variance from the borough.   

In following this series of events, I was most taken by a comment from Susan Bratton, Wawa’s regional real estate manager, as reported in Hatboro-Horsham  She was quoted as saying, “As we mature in a marketplace we are building new facilities and frankly closing older facilities.  That’s the beauty of real estate”.

I think the residents have a different view of the beauty of real estate, as do I. When they bought their homes, they had the opportunity to investigate the home’s zoning and the zoning use around them. A change to that said use doesn’t allow them to go back and make their decision over again. Also, older (read: historic) buildings can be and should treasured. 

The Romans had it right: Restore everything. Re-use as much as possible. Recycle for a new use. 

I have personally experienced a powerful entity buying land next to my own home.  It was a school district who gained the land through eminent domain for the purpose of expanding a high school. The opportunity for me to buy that land, to keep it as open space, was not an option because of eminent domain. 

So, I got involved with the process of planning and formed a resident group to meet with the school district. That was back in 1998. Today, that space is an athletic field with restricted use and no lights, which was as good an outcome as anyone could hope for. There were times when proposals existed to build on it, make it warehouse space or another school.  Ultimately, it would have cost the tax payers too much AND the residents didn’t want it.

So, to the powers that be at Wawa, I ask, what song is playing when you do step aerobics on a soap box? Maybe it’s Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me”?

I would love to get some real statistics from Wawa that shows how they improved a purchased piece of land and positively impacted surrounding residential real estate values.  It could be out there. It’s probably on the subject of storm water run-off improvement, but none-the-less one worthy of interest.



Contact Scott Loper, Associate Broker, Realtor®, RE/MAX Realty Group at 215-513-1333 for help buying or selling a home in Lansdale, Harleysville, Hatfield, Souderton, Skippack, Collegeville, North Wales and the surrounding areas of Montgomery County of Pennsylvania. To Search for Homes For Sale in Montgomery County Click Here.

Not in My Backyard - Wawa Debate in Hatboro, PA - Copyright © 2012, The Scott Loper Team, All rights reserved.

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Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Gina, great information for buyers to mull over prior to a purchase!

Mar 08, 2012 09:28 AM #1
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County

I think the WaWa's of the world should be required to purchase a buffer zone around the sites for development as a conservation area.  Imagine that!

Mar 11, 2012 11:55 PM #2
The Scott Loper Team Bux-Mont Premier Properties
Keller Williams Real Estate - Montgomeryville - Lansdale, PA

Thanks Joan!

Gary, what a great idea!  I think Gina had some clever ideas too.


Mar 12, 2012 01:54 AM #3
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