Giant leap for storePlanning commission approves preliminary plans

By on September 28, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Ephrata Township planners were discussing some Giant changes for the east end of town Tuesday night.

John Murphy, developer for a project that would bring a new Giant Foods grocery store to the area, was on hand to present details. Commissioners were considering a request to approve the preliminary / final subdivision plan, as well as action on several waivers. Murphy said his firm is interested in getting started with the changes fronting Route 322 in advance of development to that portion of the site, which will eventually house the Giant store.

Final approval would move developers closer to finalizing the acquisition of properties to the west of the Ephrata Honda motorcycle dealership and up to and including the current site of Bachman Auto Sales. Once acquired, those buildings would be razed and the lots reconfigured to become three out-parcels. According to Murphy, while there are no commitments in place, he anticipates a bank and perhaps restaurant types of businesses to occupy the three parcels.

Of key concern to commissioners was the impact the development might have on traffic. The township and developers are working with PennDOT to complete plans for roadway improvements which would include a new "right-in, right-out" type of access to the complex from Route 322, in the vicinity of the current driveway for Edgar Martin Electric.

Township engineer Ben Weber was supportive of the developer’s request for various waivers.

"These are very sensible waiver requests," he said, who noted that the developer has been extremely cooperative with township staff and officials at ever step of the way thus far.

Each motion for waiver requests were met with the unanimous approval. Those waivers dealt with a number of technical issues necessary to allow the project to continue moving forward.

One such waiver had to do with the center line of the street. Another would allow construction of curbs and sidewalks along Route 322 at a later point in the project.

"We know that even if they were only doing the subdivision plans this would be a reasonable request, to waive these three sections so that sidewalks and curbs would only be done later under the land development plan," commented Weber.

Murphy discussed traffic plans in detail. One concern raised by the commissioners was the impact a large tractor trailer truck trying to make a left turn into the complex would affect traffic stacking along Route 322. According to Murphy, PennDOT plans call for a designated right and designated left turn lane, as well as a designated straight lane at the main access point. That main access point will be at the current intersection of Route 322 and Pleasant Valley Road.

An extensive transportation study has been completed and submitted to the township regarding traffic plans. Those plans reveal significant changes to the main access intersection of Route 322 and Pleasant Valley Road, with the roadway leading up to Superior Walls and Weaver Precast being reconfigured to allow for better traffic flow. It would also add a new traffic signal to the intersection. Traffic entering the new complex would exit Route 322 onto the reconfigured portion of Pleasant Valley Road, then turn right to access the new store.

Access to the three out-parcels would be from a new access road on the back side of those lots and not directly from Route 322. The right-in / right-out configuration of the sole access from Route 322 would only allow traffic traveling west on Route 322 to turn right into the complex, and traffic exiting the complex from that point to turn right back on the westbound lane of 322.

With township planning commission approval for the requested waivers and preliminary plans now obtained, the next stop in the journey will be to get the formal blessing of township supervisors on the measures. Those blessing could come as early as their Tuesday evening board meeting.

Commissioners also considered a text amendment regarding parking lot standards for the project. This is the first time since the original zoning ordinance was passed that a township project called for parking spaces in excess of 100 spaces. Current standards call for long, continuous curb islands to break up long rows of parking. Murphy said his clients were in agreement to the concept of end-cap islands which could be landscaped for aesthetic purposes, but felt there was perhaps a better way of setting up the parking lot than with the long runs of curbing.

Township officials agreed. In fact, other than perhaps some aesthetics and the possible limitation of drivers cutting across the parking lot rather than using designated paths of travel, there were few reasons to require the curbing. Commissioners agreed to support the amendment, contingent upon the approval and support of the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

Tuesday night’s appearance before the Ephrata Township Planning Commission is just the next in several steps which will need to be taken before major visible changes will become apparent in the area. Developers are aiming to clear the last hurdles necessary to begin work along Route 322 as soon as possible, although no firm timeline has been established. More GIANT, page A15

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