A Late Attempt Fails to Block the Controversial Convenience Store
Rarely has there been such an array of opposition to the construction of a gas station/convenience store on U.S. 1. But in a recent city commission meeting more than 50 people – via Zoom – declared their unhappiness with the pending construction of a new Wawa on the edge of the MacFarlane subdivision, at Grand Avenue and U.S. 1.
The reason for the opposition was that the Wawa will go up across from George Washington Carver Elementary School (shown below), and parents contended that it will create dangerous traffic, air pollution, increased crime and lead to obesity among students (in addition to junk food, Wawa serves breakfast, lunch and dinner meals).
“I do not want a gas station in front of my elementary school,” declared resident Julia Cantor. Said Estelle Lockhart, the PTA president for GW Carver, “We are appalled that the City of Coral Gables has pressed ahead with issuing permits.” The problem, noted City Attorney Miriam Ramos, is that the city long ago zoned the property commercial, and “The city cannot dictate what is built on that site, so long as it is consistent with the zoning and land use for that site.” In fact, the city held hearings in 2014 when it approved a site plan for the project. City officials then debunked the parent’s concerns over crime, traffic and air pollution.
In the end, noted Commissioner Michael Mena, the issue was one of property rights. “This is a private owner of private property. This is not a city project,” he said, and you cannot tell an owner what to build so long as it does not violate the zoning code. He also noted that the McFarland neighborhood association liked the project, both for its convenience and for the jobs it will provide. Meanwhile, half of the parents who opposed the project were not Coral Gables residents.