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Falls Wawa Developer Wins Case Brought by Local Service Station But “SLAPPs” a Lawsuit Against Residents Who Spoke Up at Public Meeting

Falls Wawa Developer Wins Case Brought by Local Service Station But “SLAPPs” a Lawsuit Against Residents Who Spoke Up at Public Meeting | Newtown News of Interest |

The owners of the Plaza Shell service station in Morrisville moved last week to withdraw their appeal from state Commonwealth Court. At question was whether the fuel-selling Wawa counted as a service station and therefore violated the Falls code that requires a 1,500-foot minimum distance between stations. The Shell is about 600 feet away.


Falls supervisors made two votes in May 2017, first to allow a Wawa where West Trenton Avenue intersects Pine Grove Road, and then to approve onsite fuel sales. Plaza Shell appealed the fuel-sale vote to county court the next month, accusing the board of violating the township’s requirement between service stations.


The board — and Wawa — had argued that Wawa was a convenience store, not a service station, under township code, which defines service stations as “providing for the sale of fuel, lubricants, automotive accessories, maintenance and minor repairs for motor vehicles.” The Wawa would not provide maintenance or minor repairs.


The developer’s separate county court complaint, seeking $11 million from residents and business owners it alleges stalled approval on the three stores through opposition at public meetings, remains ongoing as of Monday afternoon.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

The last sentence of this article sends a chill down my spine. From May 14, 2018, story


“The case also names two Falls residents living near the development site, off Pine Grove Road and West Trenton Avenue, who alongside the business owners spoke up against the proposal at public meetings.”


This is an example of a “SLAPP” lawsuit — or a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. According to the Public Participation Project, a national nonprofit, SLAPPs are “damaging” suits designed to “chill free speech and health debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.”


SLAPPs are effective because even a meritless lawsuit can take years and many thousands of dollars to defend. To end or prevent a SLAPP, those who speak out on issues of public interest frequently agree to muzzle themselves, apologize, or “correct” statements.


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Newtown News of Interest
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