Thursday, July 18, 2024

Wawa’s in, multiple small businesses are out

Nationwide Insurance, a former Pizza Hut and businesses at Samelin Center will be demolished to make way for a Wawa at the corner of 17th Street and Wellington Ave. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — A proposal for a Wawa gas station and convenience store cleared its final hurdle Tuesday, though not without some pushback from city council.

The development, slated for 17th Street and Wellington Avenue, is pushing out multiple small businesses, which did not sit right with council members Charlie Rivenbark and Kevin Spears. The two voted against the ordinance at the council meeting May 2 and recast the same votes May 16 after Wawa’s rezoning request failed a motion to waive its second reading at the former meeting.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t like it’: Council members vote on Wawa rezoning, moves to second reading

ALSO: If approved, 5 local businesses out so Wawa can come in

Though Rivenbark and Spears stuck with their dissenting votes Tuesday, the ordinance passed 5-2, with Neil Anderson, absent at the first meeting, weighing in this go ‘round.

Prior to the vote, Rivenbark made a plea for small businesses to be sure their leases are up to date in an effort to avoid future situations like this.

Tenants at the Samelin Center had been leasing their spaces from Tom Melin on a month-by-month basis, since they were decades-old tenants. The move put them on shaky legal ground to have any say when Melin was approached by Wawa to purchase the property, according to Rivenbark. While it would not have prevented the sale of the buildings, owners could have been informed in a timely fashion.

As it stands, the tenants were not informed until the developer had a public meeting.

“When it comes time to renew and when that term is up, contact your landlord, and know for sure you’ll be able to get that lease renewed,” Rivenbark said at the meeting. “What’s happened here, and happens to people out there, on a 30-day lease, once that expires, you’re only good for 30 days. That’s what’s happened here and it’s unfortunate.”

While he advocated for the rights of property owners to sell their land, he said “it just doesn’t feel right,” in this situation.

“So if you’re not sure, contact an attorney or landlord, and if they refuse to extend your lease,” Rivenbark said, “that should raise a red flag. You want to be on a lease.”

The Samelin Center strip mall, a former Pizza Hut, a current Nationwide Insurance building, and Hamm Hearing Aid Center will be razed to make way for Wawa on a 2.4-acre tract of land.

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