The Giant draws near

By on May 2, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

A proposed new commercial development which would bring a Giant Foods grocery story to Ephrata Township along Route 322 cleared the next round of major hurdles at Tuesday night’s Ephrata Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

First up was approval of the final subdivision plan. The plan approved by supervisors Tuesday night included minor revisions to the preliminary plan approved late last year.

According to John Murphy, an engineer with Alpha Consulting Engineers representing the developer, minor tweaks had been made to the plan.

"We are willing to comply with all the issues listed by the township’s engineer, Ben Webber," Murphy told supervisors.

Webber, for his part, explained that the measures before the supervisors would clear the way for all the next steps on the project, from recording of new deeds, to establishing new tax parcels and more.

"This really needs to work like a domino effect," explained Webber. "Each step clears the way for the next step."

Webber added that the plan had been reviewed at the township planning commission meeting on April 24, and had garnered their recommendation for approval.

Township Manager Steve Sawyer explained that one such tweak was with regard to signage for the Giant and attached retail spaces. Township zoning ordinances require signs advertising a business to actually be located on the property being advertised. Slight revisions to the final subdivision plan addressed that issue by creating the appropriate space along Route 322 for signage.

As planned, four properties located along Route 322 would be razed and the lots reconfigured to create three new lots, all in excess of the minimum one-acre called for by township zoning requirements. The Giant store, along with two smaller retail spaces, would be located behind the three properties along Route 322. The overall plan also calls for reconfiguration of the intersection and connecting roadway at Route 322 and Pleasant Valley Road, to better accommodate not only truck traffic into the new store and commercial businesses adjacent to the property, but at the same time, remain safe for pedestrian, bicycle and buggy traffic so prevalent in that part of town.

Supervisors unanimously approved the final sub-development plan as presented.

In considering the applicant’s request for approval of the final land development plan, supervisors voted to approve contingent on the developer resolving the estimate for the amount of financial security to be set aside, until the project is completed to the satisfaction of the township.

"There has not yet been a cost estimate of financial security submitted to the township, therefore the developer does not have an amount to submit tonight," explained Webber. "The amount might be established based on discussion with township staff."

Supervisors, however, were not comfortable with that approach. Sawyer pointed out that conditional approval would give developers 90 days to fully comply with all terms of the approval. He added that should 90 days be insufficient to complete the process, Giant could always approach supervisors for a time extension. This was agreeable to both the developer as well as the supervisors. The motion to conditionally approve the final land development plan passed unanimously.

Developers had requested supervisors grant the approval with more than 90 days to comply, pointing to the amount of work that must fall into place in rapid succession within the next 90-120 days. They pointed to completion of work with PennDot, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, as areas where completion of the work within 90 days may be beyond their control. In the end, supervisors decided to hold to the 90-day requirement, but expressed their openness to considering extensions in a timely manner.

In other township business, supervisors voted to uphold the townships’ ordinance requiring a minimum of 50 acres per tract for farm subdivisions. This was in response to a request by Morton Fry to subdivide his farm in a manner which would take two lots and create a third lot. Fry owns enough property that he could subdivide into three lots and still be in compliance with the 50-acre minimum. However, the nature of his request would have created more regular-shaped lots which would be more conducive to farming, one of which would have been under the 50-acre minimum.

Supervisors, in voting to uphold that standard, felt it was necessary in order to not open the township up for a dangerous precedent with other land owners. In debating the measure, supervisors tried to weigh the overall shape of farm tracts versus the amount of farmable acreage. A key concern was the possibility that a subdivided tract could be deemed too small to effectively farm at some point in the future.

For additional information on Ephrata Township, visit ephratatownship.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, suggestions and questions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More TOWNSHIP, page A6

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