The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 9, 2013

East Buffalo development project hits another roadblock

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — The ever-contentious Pennsylvania House Commons project hit another snag Monday night as East Buffalo Township supervisors and developer representatives argued for 90 minutes over a suggested “right-turn-in” entrance to accommodate a possible tenant.

Arguments ranged from pedestrian and cyclist safety issues, to having enough time to review what the developer was asking, to whether or not the Union County Planning Commission really had given its blessing to the change as the representatives said it had.

The “right-in only” entrance to the shopping center from southbound Route 15 would be about a half-block before the intersection with Route 45.

The entrance is to accommodate a CVS drug store, which representatives of mid-Atlantic developer J.C. Bar Properties Inc. said the chain store must have.

Current development plans have the CVS store “removed from the intersection with St. Mary Street and Route 15,” potentially cutting into about 30 percent of expected customer traffic, said Douglas Gosik, vice president of J. Michael Brill & Associates, a Mechanicsburg consulting engineer firm.

Gosik and Eric Mountz, project manager with Traffic Planning and Design Inc. of Harrisburg, asked the supervisors for the township’s support of the entrance, which they then want to take to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

PennDOT had rejected the proposal, the men said, saying it conflicted with the Route 15 Corridor Study, unveiled about a year ago. The supervisors were asked for a letter saying there is no conflict.

“We’re trying to offer every opportunity to get (CVS) on the site,” Gosik said, to make this “as attractive to them as possible. They are a key component.”

Mountz said the county planning commission was indifferent to the request, and asked the board to act on the matter Monday night.

That set off a heated discussion between the two men and Chairman Supervisor James Buck, who asked “PennDOT already said no?” to which Mountz replied “not exactly.” Mountz said PennDOT’s traffic engineer told them to go to the township supervisors for their support.

Buck then challenged Mountz statement that Union County is indifferent to the proposed entrance, adding Planning Director Shawn McLaughlin told him the commission is opposed to the plan.

Supervisor Henry Baylor Jr. asked the two men how he was to make a decision on the matter when two emails each attached with nine-page documents had just reached his inbox Monday afternoon.

“I have to vote on this tonight?” an incredulous Baylor asked. “We’ve been inundated with information.”

Mountz said the township officials had the information in hand since March 4.

More arguing ensued over whether the entrance would violate the township ordinance that rezoned the 47-acre site for residential and commercial use, and about pedestrian and, especially, cyclist safety with the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail about 25 feet from the right-in access.

Members of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail Committee were among those at the meeting to voice their concern for the entrance.

Ultimately, supervisors tabled the issue, vowing to get back to the developers after they’ve had time to review the information and discuss with county officials.

Meridian Development Partners of New York and J.C. Bar plan to transform the former furniture factor property between North 15th Street and Route 15 south of St. Mary Street into a commercial and retail project that could include housing units. Beside CVS, the plans call for a full-service Giant grocery story to anchor the initial phase.