Parents Outraged On Wawa Gas Station Across From School

The City of Coral Gables has given a carte blanche approval to developer REDEVCO Grand LLC, for their project called Bahamian Village on US1 and Florida Avenue, across the street from George Washington Carver Elementary and Middle School.

The project calls for the construction of a Wawa gas station and convenience store, right across from the front door of the school.

THE PROCESS

The process began 6 years ago, according to Assistant City Manager Ed Santamaria, who addressed the issue at the October 16th School Community Relations Committee meeting. During said time, he explained, the City deemed it unnecessary to inform residents, the school, parents or the school district, as there was “no legal notification requirement.”

However, City Attorney Miriam Ramos claims the developer went “above and beyond” informing residents within 1,000 feet of the development project. However, the school that sits directly across the street was not notified. Instead, the notification of the development was sent in the form a letter to a general mailbox at the school district, but no notification was ever made to anyone at the actual school.

Additionally, the project was never brought to the attention of the School Community Relations Committee (SCRC), one of the City’s many volunteer advisory boards that help advise the Commission on issues related to their scope. In this case, the SCRC’s scope relates to issues affecting the schools and the school community at large.

Like parents, members of the SCRC, some who are parents at the school, only found out about the project after the fate has been sealed by City staff and the Commission.

School Board Member Mari Tere Rojas, who attended the virtual SCRC meeting, informed that no one at the district has any record of receiving said letter and as the School Board Member representing Coral Gables residents and this school, she too was excluded from notification.

“I have been advised that on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, Mr. Victor Alonso, Eco-Sustainability Officer contacted Ms. Patricia Fairclough, Principal to obtain additional information and determine whether the school had received any notification from the City.  Ms Fairclough informed Mr. Alonso that some of the school’s parents had earlier that day provided a copy of a petition signed by over 40 neighbors in support of the WAWA gas station and asked whether the school had been informed of the impending construction.  The principal expressed that she was totally unaware of any plans for the gas station.  The parents further informed the principal that they believed that the City of Coral Gables had already approved plans for the project and had informed residents within 1,000 feet of the property, including the School Board. As of Friday, October 16, 2020, District staff has been unable to confirm the receipt of any notice from the City of Coral Gables regarding the proposed gas station,” stated Rojas in an email to the City Attorney and City Commission.

NO PUBLIC COMMENT

Normally, projects such as these provide for a public comment period so that residents and stakeholders can share their concerns and allow for community input to the City and the City Commission, in order to properly address concerns. In this case, public comment was limited to 30 days after the City attorney released an opinion in January of this year, which was published online without any formal notification to anyone of its existence.

In fact, the settlement, which was approved by the City Commission specifically states that no public hearing can take place, as outlined below in an a timeline shared by the City Attorney with School Board Member Mari Tere Rojas:

In September 2014, the City Commission approved a PAD and site plan for a project referred to as Gables Pointe Plaza which consisted of two phases.  Phase 1 was a community center facility and office space.  Phase 2 was a restaurant.  Due to significant delays in the redevelopment, litigation ensued.  Initially the litigation was between the Foundation and Miami-Dade County, but the City subsequently intervened.  In 2015, via Resolution No. 2015-303, the City Commission acknowledged the importance of the area, acknowledged the delays, urged the County to reach a settlement that would allow for the completion of the project, and authorized the City Manager and City Attorney to take all necessary action to facilitate a resolution to the dispute. 

In November of 2017, the former City Attorney entered into a settlement agreement which concluded the litigation.  In the settlement agreement the City agreed to, among other things:

Waive all building permit fees;

Expedite the review and approval process for any site plan modifications, require only one submission to the BOA, and no further public hearings before any board; and

Complete any and all approvals of the proposed site plan modifications administratively by the City Manager and City Attorney.

PARENT CONCERNS

The concerns of parents arise from several different areas, including safety, health, environmental and traffic.

Safety concerns range from the sales of alcohol and tobacco products at the convenience store, to the accessibility the gas station adds to the range of view of the school by sexual predators, to loitering aided by the Wawa model of providing outside dining areas for patrons.

Environmental and health concerns revolve around the impacts a gas station has to air quality in close proximity to a school, ground water contamination and the increased risk in childhood cancer and respiratory issues in children who are in close proximity to a gas station, just to name a few.

When pressed for studies the City has conducted on these issues, the City Attorney explained that none could be provided, as “any environmental approvals required will need to be complied with by the developer to the satisfaction of the agency with jurisdiction over said approval.” This begs the question, did the City every request them or consider them prior to making this seemingly irrevocable decision?

When it comes to traffic, all schools in Coral Gables are already plagued with traffic concerns at drop off and pick up times. Carver is not exempt from this. The gas station’s location directly across the street from the school will have traffic implications on the school.

Regarding concerns, Board Member Rojas added the following in her email: “With the safety and security of our students as the number one priority, it is my hope that we are able to further discuss in order to bring clarity to this matter in an extremely expeditious manner.”

The George Washington Carver PTSA released the following statement:

“We, GW Carver Elementary PTA, are appalled that the City of Coral Gables has pressed ahead with issuing permits for the construction of a WAWA gas station and convenience store without notifying the school, its Principal, or District 6 School Board member. We do not believe that this is in the best
interest of our students or our school community. Not only will it bring increased pollution within close proximity to the school but could also be a magnet for violent crime.

The GW Carver Elementary PTA is fundamentally opposed to the project because of the safety risks to young children arising from additional traffic at an intersection, which is already struggling to accommodate a large number of cars.

Failure to notify the school that has been in the community for over a century and is located less than 1000 feet from the proposed project is an inadmissible error. We urge the City of Coral Gables Commissioners, the Miami Dade County School Board and the Miami Dade Board of County
Commissioners to take action to prevent the project from moving forward and find a suitable replacement project.”

THE PATH FORWARD

The SCRC made a resolution at the October 16th meeting, “requesting  that  the  City  Commission  reconsider  the  approval  of  this  project  and  open  up  a  truthful  public  comment  period,  which  was  not offered  in  the  first  place,  so  that  all   stakeholders   in   this   process   are   able   to   voice   their concerns and a decision can be made that takes everybody into consideration.” The resolution passed by an 7-1 vote of the SCRC, with the lone dissenting voting board member saying they were in agreement with the premise of the resolution, but they would like to have more evidence as to whether a public comment period had been offered.

City Attorney Ramos has since advised the Commission not to take up the issue as it would violate the terms of the settlement. However, the item does appear on the City’s agenda for the Commission’s October 27th meeting.

The SCRC is expected to take up the issue once again at its October 30th virtual zoom meeting at 8:30AM, requesting the participation of School representatives, the City Manger, the developer and parents and in order to facilitate an open dialogue.


Co-Founder of Gables Insider, Ariel Fernandez, serves as the Chairman of the School Community Relations Committee.

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14 thoughts on “Parents Outraged On Wawa Gas Station Across From School

  1. I’m fairly certain this would never have been approved if it was across from Coral Gables, Sunset, or West Lab Elementary Schools. Anyone remember a trolley barn fiasco?

    The decision making process demonstrates at best a disregard, and at worst, an intent to erase a historic district.

  2. What is going on here? This is the owner of Redevco, which is building the Wawa ” L.B.W. Homeowners’ Foundation of Coral Gables, Inc. (LBW) is a non-profit dedicated to preserving and revitalizing the historic McFarlane ..” . The same thing happened when Coral Gables approved a huge boat storage warehouse at Matheson. Citizens were not consulted and were told it was a “done deal” . The huge outcry stopped it. Luis from Ormond is exactly right. They bulldozed over 20 acres of virgin forest in Ormond Beach and paved over it. It is a nightmare. I will NEVER buy gas there, EVER. All the lip service about the environment by Valdes Fauli and Pat Keon are just that- lip service. They sell us out at every turn. Get rid of them, and the city attorney. Until all of us make our voices heard, nothing will change. And yes, the citizens and parents CAN put a stop to the WAWA. You just need to organize and be heard, like we did when the city wanted to destroy Matheson Hammock without ever asking us.

  3. AS A PRESERVATIONIST, MY QUESTION IS WHY WOULD THE CITY ALLOW A “GAS STATION/CONVENIENCE STORE” TO BE BUILT WITHIN A HISTORIC DISTRICT? A HISTORIC DISTRICT COMES WITH CERTAIN INHERENT GUIDELINES.

    THE WAWA IS SET TO BE BUILT ON US.1 AND FLORIDA AVENUE [RIGHT WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES* OF THE MACFARLANE HISTORIC DISTRICT]
    [The City of Coral Gables has given a carte blanche approval to developer REDEVCO Grand LLC, for their project called Bahamian Village on US1 and Florida Avenue, across the street from George Washington Carver Elementary and Middle School.] Gables Insider

    *BOUNDARIES: The MacFarlane Homestead subdivision, Bounded by Oak Avenue on the north, Grand Avenue on the south, Brooker Street on the east, and U.S. 1 on the west. The major concentration of historic houses within the MacFarlane Homestead subdivision is on Florida Avenue and Frow Avenue, between Brooker and Jefferson Streets, which could constitute a potential district boundary.

  4. The convenience store will be a magnet for students seeking to buy a quick treat. I am concerned that a child may be hit by a car while crossing the street alone before or after school, or hit in the parking lot of the store. Has this been considered?

  5. Uncontrolled development by CG, City of Miami and MDC. Sadly they don’t want citizens involved or their comments.

  6. Here in Ormond Beach, the WaWa people bulldozed a great natural area full of trees, migrating birds and local flora/fauna to build one of their filling stations. Never mind that at Granada Blvd there is one like every other block. A few concerned citizens complained, protested and attended City Hall meetings to no avail. A lot of letters to the editor of our local paper (Daytona New Journal) praised the company for providing jobs during difficult times (Minimum wage/no health benefits) and for selling great sub sandwiches. Great addition to the city and to hell with the environment.

  7. 1. Interesting that the legal settlement gave them free permits and expedited processing of their permits. I can’t imagine that happening in Coral Gables!
    2. School Board wasn’t informed? If this project has been around 8 yrs, someone should have noticed what was going on. Even parents paying attention to Gables construction activities should have raised a flag about a restaurant across from the school.
    3. Location-Wawa always seeks to be near major highways, so US 1 qualifies, tho’ their Coral Way and 70 Ave location is a bit too far from the Palmetto Expwy.

  8. I think t’s a great idea. Wawa is a quality store and can serve many at that location, neighbors, students and drivers. School authorities and community activists should stop complaining needlessly and superficially. If there’s crime in the area it’s not because off Wawa. Do something to improve living conditions, employment opportunities and increase the policing. Don’t try to stop progress.

  9. The City of coral Gables, and in particular Ms. Ramos, have taken it upon themselves to make decisions in the City that affect its residents without so much as notifying them, much less including them in any discussions.
    When the residents, on rare occasions, are consulted we are simply ignored. They treat us as pests. Just pay your taxes and shut up is what it seems.She won’t be fired she’s an Ace at doing the City’s dirty work. And she’s very good at her job.
    The vote is the only real way to change.
    Remember these things next time these folks ask for your vote. That’s the only time they really care what we think.

  10. People who are not concerned must not be parents. My son attended that school. I agree traffic is horrible during the morning and afternoon of school days.
    Fumes are a great concern as well as fire,criminal activities, and all the other negative activities that happens across the street.
    What poor thinking on the government’s part, or is it money before child safety?

  11. How can we attend the School Community Relations Committee meeting? Are meeting details posted for public attendance?

  12. Clearly city commissioners do not travel on Grand Avenue near the schools Monday-Friday 8-9am
    or in afternoon as schools let out. Traffic is already impossible due to poor planning for student drop off and pick up! Can’t imagine what it will be like when WAWA is there. Terrible idea. Dr. Smith

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