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Williamsport council rejects Sheetz alley transfer

April 15, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT -- The Williamsport Town Council on Monday rejected an alley transfer that was seen as paving the way to a new, larger Sheetz store.

The council voted 4-1 not to give up a portion of a public alley near the former Red Barron furniture store.

The 614-square-foot dead-end alley, if added to the Red Barron property, would have been part of a proposed Sheetz convenience store, across North Artizan Street from the existing one.

Councilman Anthony T. Drury, a leading opponent of the transfer, said he might not mind a different project, but objected to the large store in the middle of town.

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Councilman Earle R. Pereschuk Sr., who also voted no, said he listened to residents' concerns about noise, appearance and traffic associated with the new Sheetz.

Councilwoman Gloria J. Bitner and Councilman James C. Kalbfleisch also voted against the transfer.

Only Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones voted in favor of the town making the transfer. He said the town council was unfairly denying a legitimate request only because it knew a new Sheetz might be around the corner.

If the Barron family had requested the transfer a few years earlier, no one would have hesitated to approve it, he said.

Jones said a new Sheetz might not be a perfect use of the land, but it was a good opportunity for improving it. "Otherwise, it's just going to end up another dead building in the town of Williamsport," he said.

Through a limited liability company called Higher Ground Realty, the Barron family owns the property that Bowman Development Corp. has offered to buy to build a Sheetz store.

A Sheetz official has said the portion of the alley would help the project move forward, but the new shop could be built without it.

During a packed meeting Monday, supporters said the alley section serves no public purpose any more, so there's no reason not to hand it over.

Edward Kuczynski, the town's attorney, said a Sheetz proposal still would need to go through other steps, including zoning and planning review, before it could be built.

Opponents criticized the Sheetz plan as out of character for the historic feel of the town.

Councilman Jeff Cline, a Realtor, excused himself from the vote. He said afterward he has worked with the Barron family on selling the property.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II also did not participate in the discussion or vote. After the meeting, he said he is related to Don Bowman through marriage.

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