Sunday, April 16, 2006

Another Conundrum - PC 4/13/06

On Thursday April 13th at their regular meeting, the PC was once again faced with making a decision without all the information that it would have like to have. Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call) detailed the conundrum. Please read their accounts. Chairman Vito Tamborrino was absent. Vice Chairman Erik Chuss filled in for him.

FORKS COMMONS - CVS LAND DEVELOPMENT - SamCar, the developer for this property on the southeast corner of Sullivan Trail and Uhler Road came back with the “high end” grocery store traffic study and asked that the PC vote to move it to the next step that night, thus saving them 30 days in the process and helping them to maintain their (six) possible tenants’ interest.

CVS/SamCar’s original proposal to the PC on 12/8/05 was for a CVS drugstore and fast food drive-through restaurant. The CVS project was/is “by right” (meaning it is allowed under the zoning and can’t be denied). The fast food drive-through though was not a “by right” plan and had to go before the Zoning Hearing Board. That board denied the CVS/SamCar variance request on 1/9/06. SamCar/CVS withdrew its conditional use request on 1/12/06.

On March 9th, they appeared again at the PC meeting, this time with a proposal for a yet-to-be-named "high end" grocery store (and possible gas station) for the site. They presented demographic study results to show that not only was the population density and projected growth up to what such a store warrants, but that the median income of the area residents ($55K) would certainly support it.

At the April 13th meeting they summarized the traffic study filed earlier with the Township. In the hour long discussion and question/answer session, it became apparent that although they used figures and growth estimates provided by PennDot, the growth percentage was not appropriate for Forks growth rate. They used the typical PennDot 2.2% rate. Planner Erik Chuss pointed out that Forks has grown 44% since 2000. The discussion produced only one traffic increase example, going north on Sullivan Trail during peak hours - the grocery would add an additional 165 cars. No one disputed the grocery’s traffic draw since the developers are very familiar with those statistics. Questioned however, were the traffic figures used as the basis for the study.

The PC, with the exception of Dean Turner, voted to send a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to consider a zoning change to allow the grocery store. The planners were reassured by Solicitor Karl Kline that this was not a final step by any means. The BoS can say “no.” The developer can balk at conditions imposed by the PC later on when the plan is presented formally. The PC can turn it down then too. The PC asked for more accurate traffic projections.

The Board of Supervisors will ultimately decide whether or not to change Forks zoning in order to allow a grocery store - read ANY grocery story - in the EC (Employment Center) district. They can put constraints in the zoning to be very restrictive for road configurations, etc., almost confining the store to that one site. However, once revised, the zoning change will apply to the entire EC district. Without the zoning change, Forks will get the “by-right” CVS store on that corner. SamCar will do one or the other.

RIVERVIEW ESTATES, PHASE IIC/TEMPORARY PARKING LAND DEVELOPMENT was also on the PC agenda. Based on a letter by engineer Fred Hay, it was rejected in a 6:0 vote. Apparently “the developer” declined to submit the required materials per the SALDO and simply resubmitted the same sketch that was last submitted - with the parking lot in the wrong place. His representative (David Lear - Lehigh Engineering) said that he asked his client to allow submission of the proper plans and was told to use the sketch and call it a plan.

This was discussed in terms of “the developer,” the “sketch,” etc. Turner said that he might consider granting waivers if “the developer” will do the plantings that “he” committed to on Winchester Drive. These plantings and buffers are already part of earlier agreements and thus need not be renegotiated. The submitted sketch was soundly rejected. The audience was left wondering who this “developer,” who so casually ignored the rules that every other developer must follow, could be?

The PC also learned that the YMCA Day Care is being “evicted” from its space in the EASD building on Bushkill Drive. The EASD has moved in and there is no longer any room for the day care. The land development before the PC was for a space in the old Industrial Engraving (still marked as such on the Knox Avenue side of the building but now owned and occupied by an environmental services company). The owner will fix a portion of the building and grounds for the day care. The PC's only issues were about traffic and parking. Hay will look at the on-street parking situation on Sullivan Trail and may recommend parking on one side only. The PC tabled the request and the day care will come back with a traffic flow proposal.

For additional project updates from the PC meeting, please see the F.A.C. News page.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

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