Kill Devil Hills residents express concern over proposed Wawa privacy fencing

Published 3:36 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

A small crowd gathered at the May 16 Kill Devil Hills May commissioners meeting to discuss the privacy fencing that will separate the new Wawa gas station and convenience store from the neighboring residential area.

The Wright’s Shores development is home to approximately 250 residents, many of whom have enjoyed the undeveloped, wooded lot on the corner of 4th Street and Highway 158 for many years.

The site plan review before the board – which they approved unanimously at the meeting – would include an eight-pump gas station and 6,000 square foot convenience store open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 2.3-acre site will have 53 parking spaces and two underground storage tanks.

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While none of the people who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting opposed the new construction, they took issue with the perceived inadequate fencing that Wawa is planning on installing to mitigate light and noise pollution. The original plan included a 6-foot vinyl fence, which residents stated would not hold up to Outer Banks weather and was neither tall enough nor substantial enough to offer privacy.

Wright’s Shores residents have requested that Wawa install tall, durable privacy fencing similar to what Publix and Lowe’s have installed surrounding the residential areas of their stores that would extend the length of the Wawa property between 4th Street and 5th Street to protect their neighbors from noise, lights, trespassers and trash.

“They claim to be community friendly, and I believe that. It’s a perfect time for them to walk the walk,” said one resident. “I hope Wawa reconsiders their plan and goes the extra step to be a good neighbor who cares about their community so it doesn’t appear to be just a sales slogan.”

After residents voiced their concerns, assistant planning director Cameron Ray said that Wawa had proposed a 6-foot shadowbox fencing, which is usually constructed of wood and is more durable and attractive than a vinyl fence. Almost a dozen members of the community waited through the regular business items of the agenda until the second public comment portion of the meeting to respond.

Said one homeowner who lives on David Land, which is directly west of the property, while perhaps more durable, a six-foot fence is insufficient to meet privacy needs of the neighborhood. “Almost all the houses are raised 8 to 12 feet. The bedrooms are on the backside of the house . . . bedrooms are 10 feet in the air, looking right into where Wawa is going to put their store. So that’s just something to think about – having Wawa in your bedroom,” he said.

Said another resident, “A Lowe’s or Publix-type of fence, it would go a long way in allowing us to use our properties in the way we’ve done for years.”

Though commissioners approved the site plan, several spoke up about incorporating changes into the town’s ordinances to require additional buffers between commercial and residential areas.

“Our hands are tied in a lot of ways. We need to look to the future to prevent anything like this from happening [again] . . . The idea of being a good neighbor is important to the community,” said commissioner BJ McAvoy.

Commissioner Terry Gray urged Wawa to consider additional fencing even though the town cannot require it, “to try and go one step further” to help the neighboring community.

Some residents expressed concern over potential stormwater issues with the new construction, as the area already struggles with flooding. According to Ray, that will not be a problem. “[Wawa has] gone above and beyond. They’ve created a retention pond that’s also a parking lot . . . This site is not creating stormwater issues for someone else. They’re doing a tremendous amount of stormwater work on 4th street and 158. It’s great timing for the town. I think you’ll see with some of the designs they’ve done you’ll see things improve,” he said.

Site plan applicant Arista Development, LLC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.