Coming soon: Giant progress
By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
It’s a dirty job, but it’s all in the name of progress.
Dirt will soon be flying and buildings coming down in preparation for the new Ephrata Giant Foods Store. Ed Fetter, representing Ephrata Giant, was present at Tuesday evening’s Ephrata Township Supervisors meeting to express his sincere appreciation for their help and cooperation in moving the project from concept to the cusp of becoming a reality.
According to Fetter, permits have been filed which would allow demolition of the properties fronting East Main Street as soon as Sept. 11 in hopes of having significant sight work and clean up completed by Oct. 1.
Supervisors expressed appreciation for the update, noting the general feeling of a "war zone" that has since taken over the several properties in the process of being cleared to make way for the new out-parcels to be located along Route 322. Plans are to combine four properties into three tracts intended for commercial use. No official plans for those sites have been announced to date, but developers envision a bank, perhaps an eatery and another type of business taking up residence in that corridor.
Phase One of the Giant Foods project call for the removal of all buildings along Route 322 from Pleasant Valley Road, beginning with the former Bachman Auto Sales and down to include the former Edgar Martin Electrical business. Once those three out-parcels have been cleared and initial development started, earth will begin to be moved behind those lots to make way for the planned Giant Foods store and up to two smaller attached retail locations.
"We hope that things will be looking very different very soon," said Fetter.
Supervisors also hinted that similar plans may be underway across the street from the Giant site, but at this point the project is still very preliminary and no plans have been made public.
In related township news, local resident Mary Sue Ruth of 758 East Main Street was present to raise questions about the impact the proposed development would have on traffic in front of her house.
"When we come down our driveway, coming down hill, usually if you are patient you can find a break to get out of the driveway and onto the road," said Ruth. "Has this been taken into consideration in the planning?"
Ruth, whose home is located across from the Sam Schmucker Window and Door Showroom, was concerned that the timing and synchronization of traffic lights from in front of Walmart to in front of the East End Mart may eliminate the small gaps necessary to allow residents to safely merge from driveways to roadways.
Lt. Chris McKim of the Ephrata Police Department was on hand and indicated that it was still too early to predict the exact impact the new businesses would have on traffic patterns, but that the department would be closely monitoring the situation.
"We will keep a close eye on it," said McKim. "And we will certainly be passing our findings on to PennDOT if we find a problem with light synchronization."
Township manager Steve Sawyer agreed.
"PennDOT did look at the sequence of lights, and if adjustments can be made we will pass them along," he said. "Even though your property is located within Ephrata Township, the actual roadway is a state road under PennDOT’s purview, so we will be working very closely with them to make sure the changes are not problematic."
Ruth also questioned the extent of plans to widen the roadway in the vicinity of the project. She was concerned whether or not those plans might mean she would lose frontage on her property. Thankfully it will not. As it turns out, developers for the Giant project have already been in touch with affected property owners and secured all proper right-aways, easements or right of ways to clear the way for the project to move forward. Ruth’s property will not be affected by any plans to widen the roadway.
Following a public hearing, during which no one from the public was present to offer any testimony, supervisors unanimously agreed to amend zoning ordinances with regard to three issues. First, an amendment to allow shopping centers by special exception within the mixed use zone was approved. A second amendment was approved relating to free-standing signs and those attached to buildings/restaurants, and a third specifies the frequency at which electronic signs may now change their messages.
Sawyer explained to supervisors that all three amendments were reviewed by both the township and county planning commissions and recommended for approval.
Supervisors were also updated on progress of a zoning ordinance text amendment dealing with the minimum lot size and width in the mixed use district. At this point it remains a possibility that the amendment will garner the support of both the township and county planning commissions and thus recommendation for approval. Currently, for residential purposes, the minimum lot size is 15,000 square feet. Within the township, 40 to 50 properties along East Main Street are at 1/2 to 3/4 acres in size.
Recently two such properties sold as dwelling units. But prior to the sale, township officials received a number of calls from attorneys and other prospective business buyers wanting to convert the property for small business uses. Currently there is a one-acre minimum for any commercial use of property in the district. Sawyer said there is a feeling this requirement should be eliminated.
"Additional work needs to be done on this," said supervisor Tyler Zerbe. "This makes sense where ever it might be used, but it needs more work."
Zerbe recommended that the township planning commission consider and iron out any differences that may still exist. Other considerations to be looked at include storm water management requirements, minimum setbacks and lighting barrier requirements.
"One property was capable of operating a home business by rights since the owner would also be operating a business from the location," explained Sawyer.
But that opened up questions about a commercial owner buying such a business, operating a business on the first floor and renting the second floor as an apartment unit.
For a wealth of additional information on Ephrata Township, visit ephratatownship.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes feedback, questions and suggestions via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. More EPHRATA TOWNSHIP, page A15
Posted: September 5th, 2012 under News.