Twp. OKs plans for Giant, LCBC

By on October 26, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Following the recommendations of the Ephrata Township Planning Commission, the Township Board of Supervisors gave the green light to the next round of plans for two major developments to move forward.

Site work at the new home of Lives Changed By Christ (or LCBC)’s Ephrata campus is well underway, with the demolition of the former Bergstrasse Elementary School earlier this summer and significant ground moving in progress.

Both the township and the church have noted the cooperative and helpful nature of both sides throughout the process of getting to this phase. Township Engineer Ben Weber noted a letter dated Sept. 26, which was more of an administrative and housekeeping nature listing the concerns and conditions previously held. According to Weber, these concerns and conditions have now since been met, paving the way for township approval. With last Tuesday’s unanimous vote of supervisors, the church can now begin moving forward with the actual construction of the building which will house its Ephrata location. Plans are on target for the church to begin holding services in September, 2012.

Supervisors also followed the recommendations of the planning commission with regard to the proposed Giant Food Store along East Main Street Development calls for houses and buildings located along the northern side of Route 322 East to be razed, beginning with the Bachman Auto Sales and eastward toward Wal-Mart to include the Edgar Martin electrical business, and two additional buildings between Martin’s and the Ephrata Honda motorcycle shop.

This now paves the way for developers to move forward on acquiring those properties so that site work along Route 322 can begin. Once acquired and buildings razed, the lots would be reconfigured to become three, stand alone out-parcels. According to John Murphy of Alpha Construction Engineering, the firm developing plans for the site, while there are no firm commitments in place, he anticipates a bank and perhaps a restaurant type of business to occupy those three parcels.

Developers have already been in contact with affected property owners regarding the acquisition of their homes.

Supervisors shared the concerns of the planning commission regarding 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 into Edgar Martin Electric.

The developer was requesting that supervisors approve the preliminary/final subdivision plan, as well as action on several waivers being requested to advance the project’s preliminary land development plan.

Ordinarily municipalities will consider the subdivision plan concurrently with the preliminary land development plans. But as Murphy explained, his firm is interested in getting started with the changes fronting along Route 322, in advance of development to that portion of the site which will eventually house the Giant store.

Weber, addressing supervisors on the request, noted that the planning commission had agreed with the recommendations, suggesting approval.

"The one request made was that all historic structures be photo documented prior to them be razed," noted Weber. "We would ask that the developer offer such access to those buildings to the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley for that purpose. Mr. Murphy has noted that his client has agreed to do this."

Township manager Steve Sawyer also commented.

"Tonight’s motions are strictly on the subdivision plan. The planning commission considered more issues but tonight we are only suggesting measures relative to the subdivision."

Supervisor Tyler Zerbe raised concern that a protruding flag portion of the lot could never be developed in the future due to its location. Murphy pointed out that no plans to develop that portion of the land could be made due to the extreme upward slope of the land which would make development extremely cost prohibitive.

Tabled was a decision regarding a text amendment regarding concrete islands called for in township code for parking lots with a capacity in excess of 100 spaces. Developers are seeking a waiver so that this could be eliminated. One possible resolution would have been for the township to grant that approval contingent on approval from the Lancaster County Planning Commission. In the end, supervisors agreed to post an advertisement for a public hearing on the matter to be held in early November. That advertisement would post the entire text of the existing ordinance.

Supervisors were also briefed on a letter of intent requesting the 322 corridor be placed on the Lancaster County Smart Growth Transportation list. This past summer supervisors authorized the township to make the request. However, in the meantime, Sawyer has met with the county planning commission which has been supportive of the initiative.

Timing on the project, remains uncertain as it was pointed out that several more major projects are already ahead of this corridor on this list and have been for quite some time. This would make the likelihood of the 322 project being added to the Transportation Improvement Program (or TIP) unlikely for this year. Instead, the county is recommending the township consider doing a comprehensive land use study along the corridor from Martindale Road west to, and perhaps into, Lincoln. That would require joint sponsorship and cooperation from Ephrata Borough to become a reality. Under the suggestion, a new grant program could pay for 80 percent of the study with the township on the hook for the remaining 20 percent.

With Lancaster General Hospital still eyeing construction of a local campus at the intersection of Route 322 and Route 222, LGH has indicated they would be interested in sharing in any such studies. Sawyer said he has sent a letter to LGH to see if they would be interested in helping to fund the study.

The matter was on the agenda since the deadline for filing a letter of intent was Oct. 14, with the actual application due in January. Sawyer was seeking supervisor approval to submit the letter of intent.

Sawyer indicated that he was also in talks with Ephrata Borough, Earl and West Earl Township on sharing in the cost.

"I’m not a big fan of studies but this comes highly recommended because in the waiting process it helps in sorting out projects and setting priorities," stated Sawyer. "The study is estimated to cost $100,000 with our local match being around $15,000 to $20,000. With participation from the other local municipalities and possibly the hospital, our cost would be less than that."

Supervisors agreed with Sawyer’s assessment of the situation and voted to move forward with the letter of intent. Zerbe added that he felt those merchants in Ephrata’s downtown shopping district should be made aware of the study and see if they might also be contributors to the cost.

"I would agree that we need some answers between now and January before we spend that kind of money," noted chairman Clark Stauffer. "For instance, I would want to know how long the findings of that study would be ‘good’ for. Would we need to do this again in another two years?"

Sawyer stated that this would be the first step in getting the project on the TIP when it is updated again in 2013. He added that even once the project has been placed on the list, it can take six years, if not longer, before funding would become available, to being actual work.

"Nothing is going to happen until we improve 322 in some way," noted Zerbe.

Supervisors agreed unanimously with giving Sawyer the green light to move forward with the letter of intent.

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Gary P. Klinger welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at More EPHRATA, page A16

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