Thunder Hill residents chided Columbia officials last night for their lack of enthusiasm in getting a convenience store for their neighborhood after arson destroyed a Wawa Food Market in April.
About 25 residents met with representatives of the Wawa, Pa.-based convenience store chain, the Columbia Association, the Columbia Council and the Rouse Co. at a community meeting to discuss prospects for the half-acre site at Log Cabin and and Thunder Hill roads.
At the meeting at the Other Barn community center in Oakland Mills, some Thunder Hill residents sought signs of hope that Wawa would rebuild the store, despite being told otherwise three months ago.
"Our neighborhood is hurting and it doesn't seem like you are stepping forward," Jim Caffey, a Thunder Hill resident for two years, told Padraic Kennedy, president of the Columbia Association, and Gary Glisan, a member of the Columbia Council.
The site "can take any shape it wants as long as it sells diapers and milk late at night," Mr. Caffey said.
"We'll do what we can, but I would be surprised to see another convenience store move to the site," Mr. Kennedy said.
Mr. Glisan and four representatives of the Wawa chain said that the site may no longer be as attractive for use as a convenience stores as it was 25 years ago when the Wawa outlet opened in the Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center.
They said the site is isolated from the rest of Oakland Mills and potential customers, and is only convenient to Thunder Hill residents.
"The store's sales performance did not warrant rebuilding at the location," said Jim Shortall, Wawa area manager.
"We still have to satisfy our business criteria."
Wawa will wait and see if another convenience store chain is interested in the property when they put it up for sale in September, he said.
"The wait-and-see approach is what we do not want," said Dr. Gayle Hopper, a Thunder Hill resident for 12 years. "Our leadership needs to take charge and help us attract another convenience store to our community."
She said the community had become dependent on the Wawa, and needs a neighborhood store.
The site in question is zoned for a number of uses, including fast-food restaurants, banks and movie theaters, said Nancy Miller of the Rouse Co.
Mr. Glisan said the residents must look beyond their desire for a convenience store and consider other uses.