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Sheetz store OK'd for Red Barron property in Williamsport

July 18, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT -- Williamsport's zoning appeals board voted 2-1 Thursday to allow a Sheetz convenience store and gas station across the street from a current branch, board member Gary Watson said.

During a phone interview Thursday night, Watson said he voted against the proposal, while Charles Brown and Traci Welch voted in favor.

Sheetz and Bowman Development Corp. wanted approval to open a store at the corner of Potomac and Artizan streets, where the former Red Barron building stands.

It would replace a smaller, existing branch across Artizan Street, which witnesses for the applicant said has half as many parking spaces and a more haphazard layout than what is proposed.

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Several residents testified against the proposal, arguing it would create more traffic congestion and stand out more sharply from the town's historic feel.

Watson said the zoning board's 2-1 vote gave the applicants a special exemption that they needed because the town's ordinance doesn't allow gas pumps on the Red Barron property.

Williamsport's planning and zoning committee previously recommended that the special exemption be denied.

A written report from the committee cited four reasons. The first was: "This type of business (24/7 day operation) is not consistent with 'Small Town Image' philosophy which town leadership promotes. Nor it is compatible with the residential culture of surrounding properties within this quadrant."

Greg Martin of East Potomac Street was among those who spoke against the new store, calling it a bad fit.

Martin is the chairman of the zoning appeals board, but excused himself from the board so he could testify. Welch, an alternate, took his place on the board for Thursday's meeting and Watson took over as chairman.

Witnesses for the applicants stressed the positives of a new Sheetz, including landscaping and a safer parking lot.

Fred Frederick, an engineer with Frederick, Seibert & Associates, said the new branch shouldn't be considered an intrusion on the neighborhood since there already is a branch there.

In April, the Williamsport Town Council voted 4-1 against giving up a portion of a public alley near the former Red Barron furniture store.

The applicants wanted the 614-square-foot dead-end alley as part of plans for a new Sheetz.

However, a Sheetz official said at the time that the project could proceed without the alley.

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