The Schuylkill Township Planning Commission held their regularly scheduled meeting at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at the Township hall. Members of the Planning Commission present were Mr. Jim Reading, Mr. Morris Quigg, Mr. Eric Rahe, Mr. Michael Bauer, Mr. Curt English and Mr. Mark Donovan. Mr. Reading chaired the meeting. Also in attendance were Mr. Mark Fischer, Esq. of High Swartz representing the Planning Commission, Mr. John Sartor, the Township Engineer, from Gilmore & Associates, Mrs. Sandy Momyer, Chair of the Historic Commission and Mr. Jerry O’Dell, Chair of the Environmental Advisory Council and 7 members of the public. No Board of Supervisor members attended the Planning Commission meeting due to the need for separation of the Board from discussion of the Conditional Use application before the commission.
On motion by Mr. Quigg and seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed, the Planning Commission approved the minutes of March 15, 2017.
Whitehorse Road-Phoenixville LLC (Wawa) – Julie L. Von Spreckelsen, Esq. came before the commission regarding the conditional use application for a proposed Wawa convenience store and retail building located at the corner of Route 23 (Valley Forge Road) and South White Horse Road at property addresses 11 and 19 South White Horse Road and 808 Valley Forge Road in the C – Commercial District. The three lots consisting in total of 122,598 sf (2.81 acres) will be subdivided into two parcels. The 4,736 sf Wawa convenience store with fuel dispensing facilities is proposed for lot 1. The 3,840 sf retail building is proposed on lot 2. Ms. Von Spreckelsen advised that a convenience store and accessory gas pumps is allowed by Conditional Use. She stated that the use is consistent with the uses on the other three corners – two gas stations with accessory small convenience stores and an equipment rental operation. Ms. Von Spreckelsen advised that the plan meets the intent of the Comprehensive Plan.
Mr. Adam Benosky of Bohler Engineering reviewed the proposed land development plan. He stated that both the White Horse Road and the Valley Forge Road driveways for the site will be pushed further away from the intersection than where the driveways are currently located. The driveway on Valley Forge Road will allow for both ingress and egress traffic except that there will be no left out to go west on Route 23. White Horse Road will have full access for both ingress and egress. He stated that there is adequate access for both traffic and pedestrians in and around the Wawa, gas pumps and the retail building. Mr. Benosky advised that there are 10 fuel pumps with an adequate vehicle stacking area. He stated that the plan calls for a large buffer area to be landscaped around the perimeter of the site.
Mr. Quigg questioned what type of retail was proposed in the building on lot 2. Mr. Benosky stated that it could be single or multiple users. Mr. Reading questioned peak volume of vehicles between the two entities. Mr. Benosky stated that the retail building will not have the same peak times as Wawa does. He advised that the site is not setup for tractor-trailers to enter, park and leave. The architecture of the building was questioned. Mr. Benosky stated that each Wawa built in the area has a façade uniqueness. The Wawa will have a front and back entrance and is proposed to be stone and brick. The height of the building at its peak will be 33’4”. There will be cross access between lot 1 and lot 2. The plan currently shows 50 parking spaces for Wawa and 26 parking spaces for the retail building.
Mr. Quigg questioned the distance of the proposed driveway on South White Horse Road from the intersection. There is a distance of approximately 185’. Mr. Benosky was questioned if the driveway entrance would cause more congestion on South White Horse Road and how would ingress and egress be handled when there is vehicle stacking waiting for the traffic signal.
Mr. Kevin Brooker of 34 South White Horse Road questioned what happens should a tractor-trailer enter the site. Mr. Benosky stated that the site is designed so that a tractor-trailer cannot use it; there is no fueling facility for that type of vehicle. He advised that the three double-walled fiberglass 20,000 gallon underground fuel tanks are refueled in off peak hours.
Ms. Sarah Sterling of 856 Valley Forge Road stated that Wawa is proposing to be constructed adjacent to a residential area. She stated that she was concerned about public health & safety of the surrounding residential area, light and sound buffering, operation of a 24-hour entity, depreciation of property values, accidents and crime. Mr. Benosky stated that the plan meets all the buffering requirements. He advised that there will be no light spillage into adjacent properties. Landscaping will also be provided. Mr. O’Dell advised that the Township does have a native plant ordinance that will need to be followed when considering buffering plantings.
Mr. Ken Butera of 41 South White Horse Road also questioned light and sound. He suggested planting a high vegetative screen for a hedge effect or using fencing along the perimeter of the site. Mr. Sartor advised that a 6’ high, 100’ long retaining wall is proposed for the back of the lot. Mr. Butera suggested that no restaurant be placed in the retail building. Mr. Benosky stated that a variance will be needed for parking within a side and front yard setback area.
Mr. Bauer stated that the site could have only one use on one lot which would eliminate the need for the internal lot line. Mr. Benosky stated that the plan can meet the setback requirements for the fuel island canopy for the ultimate right-of-way setback but cannot meet the legal right-of-way setback. A variance will also be needed to allow the gasoline canopies to be located closer than 75’ to the legal right-of-way line. During the land development phase for the proposed Wawa and retail building a waiver of the requirement of perimeter landscaping for both lots 1 and 2 along the common lot line may be needed.
Mr. Reading questioned stormwater management on the site. Mr. Benosky stated that the proposed plan meets the intent of the stormwater management ordinance. He advised that the site will curbed and underground infiltration basins will be utilized. He advised that the site may only need a general NPDES permit from PaDEP.
Mr. John Mraz of 34 Meadowbrook Lane stated that it appeared there was a lot being squeezed onto the site. He stated that it feels like a demolition derby at other Wawas due to the lack of space. He was also concerned with the circulation of emergency vehicles on site if need be. Mr. Sartor stated that emergency vehicle circulation is a standard review comment during the land development process. Ms. Susan Arenschield of 130 Valley Park Road questioned what would happen to the historic buildings on the site. Mr. Benosky stated that they would be taken down to provide for the White Horse Road access.
Mr. Bauer questioned the relationship between Whitehorse Road – Phoenixville LLC and Wawa. Mr. Bill Dion, representing Whitehorse Road-Phoenixville LLC stated that Wawa has no ownership; they as well as the retail building will lease their respective spaces from Whitehorse Road-Phoenixville LLC. A resident of Sunwood Farms asked if the number of gas stations in the area were taken into account. Had the need for fueling stations already been met in the region? He also questioned what Wawa with gas pumps effect was on competitors and if Wawa with gas pumps would create vacant lots on two of the corners (Exxon and Top Gas) at the intersection. He stated that he would prefer not to see another gas station.
Mr. Rahe questioned construction of the retail structure without knowing the tenant and would the building fit in with the surrounding architecture. Mr. Benosky stated that the architecture would be homogeneous with the architecture of the surrounding area.
Mr. Matt Hammond of Traffic, Planning & Design stated that there is a process that the plan must go through with PaDOT. He advised that there is a scoping application that needs to be submitted that shows everything that they feel should go into a traffic study. Then there is the actual traffic study itself. Mr. Hammond stated that the proposed plan shows a right turn lane to be installed on South White Horse Road to reduce the stacking at the intersection. The current left turn lane on Valley Forge Road traveling west will be made longer. The shoulder width along Route 23 will be utilized to accommodate the extra length of the left turn lane. Mr. Hammond advised that PaDOT may task them with mitigating traffic problems at the intersection. He stated that the intersection is already at a level of service of an E or F. He stated that 65% - 85% of the trips to Wawa are vehicles already on the road to a destination point. Mr. Reading stated that the traffic study would be part of the Land Development process and not necessarily part of the Conditional Use Application process. A resident of Moorehall at Valley Forge questioned if the traffic signal would be improved. Mr. Hammond stated that the efficiency of the signal may be optimized.
Ms. Sterling stated that a longer turn lane on Valley Forge Road would make three lanes of traffic in front of her home. Ms. Arenschield stated that left onto South White Horse Road from the driveway on that road and left into Wawa off of Valley Forge Road could be problematic.
A question was asked if this Wawa would have beer sales like the one on Naamans Creek Road in Concord Township. Mr. Chris Hoffman representing Wawa stated that the size of the proposed Wawa in Schuylkill Township is too small to accommodate the sale of beer. Additionally, there are too many State restrictions regarding retail sale of beer in stores.
Mr. Bauer stated that it did not appear to be an elegant development of the site. The retail building is too far in the back of the site. He stated that he is okay with the Wawa use. Mr. Rahe stated that two uses make a better fit for the neighborhood. He stated that with only the Wawa use it may make the site more accessible for tractor-trailers. Mr. English stated that retail is not on the same peak hour timetable as the Wawa. Mr. Bauer questioned if the retail tenant would be able to place signage near the road or be part of the Wawa signage. Mr. Hoffman stated that they would want multiple signage.
The proposed Wawa/retail building plan will again be discussed at the May 17, 2017 Planning Commission meeting. It was stated that it will take one year to 18 months before the plans are finalized and construction could begin.
A conditional use hearing must be held before the Board of Supervisors. The tentative date for the hearing is June 12, 2017. Advertising of the hearing is required as well as posting of the properties for the project. When the hearing is concluded, which may take multiple hearings, the Board of Supervisors will have 45 days after the last hearing date to render its opinion.
The applicant will also need to go to the Zoning Hearing Board to obtain a variance for the gasoline canopies that are located closer than 75 feet of the legal right-of-way line. The Zoning Hearing Board will also have 45 days to render a decision.
Once the Conditional Use opinion has been rendered by the Board of Supervises, the proposed plan will also need to go through the subdivision and land development (SALDO) process with the Township where the plan will be reviewed by the Township for consistency with the Township’s zoning and land development ordinances. At that time, the Board may consider any waivers requested of the SALDO. The plan will also be reviewed by PaDOT for traffic circulation since both South White Horse Road and Valley Forge Road are State Roads. The plan may also require review by County and other State agencies as well.
There being no further business for discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 9:50 p.m.
Mary R. Bird
Next Meeting: May 17, 2017