Don’t expect to see a new Sheetz on Walnut Bottom Road in South Middleton Township anytime soon.
On Thursday night, South Middleton Township Supervisors unanimously rejected a conditional use request and three waivers for a proposed Sheetz convenience store and gasoline sales at the former Bonanza Steakhouse site at Walnut Bottom and Alexander Spring roads.
The rejection comes after a total of nine hours of testimony for a conditional use hearing for a proposed 4,056-square convenience store at 909 Walnut Bottom Road that spread over three previous sessions held on Feb. 11 and 25 and March 31. Sworn witnesses included several Sheetz representatives and Todd Taylor, owner of Gulf gas and convenience store located at 920 Walnut Bottom Road.
Supervisor Chairman Brian Gembusia commented that Sheetz’s conditional use request was “incomplete” and didn’t comply with the township’s wellhead protection ordinance. Gembusia had previously stated that he was “very nervous” about placing another gas station over a well aquifer area. The Sheetz plan would have included eight gas pumps on four service islands.
The existing Gulf station at 920 Walnut Bottom Road was built before current township zoning laws were in effect.
Sheetz’s conditional use application requested waivers of the township’s sidewalk requirements, the use of bushes over trees given the location of utilities, and requirements for access to the property to allow for less distance between entrances and exits off Alexander Spring Road.
Board Vice Chairman Tom Faley said he was against the plan because he believes it would have added to traffic congestion and vehicle accidents in the area.
“As I stated during the hearing, I am very concerned about the two entrances/exits (proposed) on Alexander Spring Road,” Faley said. “It was my understanding that Sheetz wanted two exits to assist in preventing congestion on their property, but in doing so, it moves the traffic congestion issue to Alexander Spring Road with its higher speed limit compared to the slower moving traffic on the Sheetz property.”
Sheetz attorney Ron Lucas said that he had no comment after township supervisors rejected the plan. Gembusia said that Sheetz officials now have the option of appealing the supervisors’ decision in the Court of Common Pleas.
In other news, South Middleton Supervisors unanimously agreed on Thursday to issue a letter of support to the Trust for Public Land, a nationwide organization that states a “mission is to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come,” on its website.
The organization is seeking the township’s support in applying for a Community Partnership Program grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for purchasing a 116-tract of land in the township. The tract is located near state routes 34 and 94 on the edge of the Michaux State Forest and is already zoned as a woodland conservation district by the township.
Trust for Public Land representative Gregory Socha, who is based in New Jersey, told township officials that the organization would purchase the land with DCNR grant money to preserve it for future generations, Supervisor Vice Chairman Tom Faley said.
“We’ve already done our part with the land. It would be wonderful if the Trust for Public Land can get this grant and preserve the land not only for our children, but for our children’s children and so on,” Faley said.