Lady Lake Commission splits on Wawa after hearing from emotional residents

The Lady Lake Commission voted 3-2 Monday night to allow Wawa to build a convenience store at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 27/441 and County Road 466.

The vote came after commissioners heard emotional pleas on both sides of the issue.

Prior to the vote, Wawa representatives sweetened the pot.

Michael Leeds of Wawa said the company had hired local arborist Brian Stanage to examine the trees on the property. Leeds said three historic trees, which are healthy, would be preserved.

He also said the businesses that would be displaced would be relocating within Lady Lake. He also offered financial support for the owner of a triplex whose three tenants would have to find new homes.

Marilyn Solomon stood against the proposed Wawa.
Marilyn Solomon stood against the proposed Wawa.

However, a resident of the triplex, Marilyn Solomon, told commissioners that the offer of assistance had not been passed down to her.

She said she is vehemently opposed to Wawa.

She wasn’t alone.

“The last thing this town needs is another gas station. We have nine gas stations in town. We don’t need a 10th,” Lady Lake resident Nora Choquette said. “We don’t want even more traffic and accidents.”

Betty Salas, a Lady Lake Chamber of Commerce member and a realtor with Coldwell Banker, was handing out Wawa T-shirts prior to Monday’s meeting.

“The south end of town has not seen the development that has taken place elsewhere,” she said.

She said Wawa could attract other developments.

“They could open that door and others might take a chance,” she said. “As a town we should be encouraging growth.”

Kevin Yoakum and Betty Salas showed their support for Wawa.
Kevin Yoakum and Betty Salas showed their support for Wawa.

She pointed to 40 new jobs that Wawa will create and the tax revenue it will generate.

Commissioner Dan Vincent was the key swing vote. He disclosed that he had a private meeting with Wawa. He indicated Wawa had persuaded him to support the project.

Commissioner Paul Hannan stood firm in his opposition to Wawa.

“It’s all about money. I stand with the residents of Lady Lake,” he said.

Commissioner Tony Holden said he remained opposed to Wawa at that location.

Commissioner Ruth Kussard and Mayor Jim Richards joined Vincent in support of Wawa, giving it a 3-2 margin.