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Opponents to appeal approval of new Sheetz in Williamsport

September 19, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- A group of 45 Williamsport residents and property owners have filed a petition in Washington County Circuit Court announcing their intent to appeal the decision to allow a new, larger Sheetz to be built in town.

The Williamsport Board of Zoning Appeals voted 2-1 in July to grant a special zoning exemption to allow Bowman Development Corp. to build a Sheetz at the corner of Potomac and Artizan Streets, despite protests from residents that the new store would bring in too much highway traffic and diminish the downtown's small-town charm.

"That intersection ... is really the gateway to the town," said William Clipper, 65, of Burkittsville, Md., who owns a historic home near the site and organized the petition for appeal. "It's a historic town with an abundance of historic housing in it, and the new proposed Sheetz is just totally incongruous with that type of setting."

The new Sheetz would be about 4,000 square feet and would be built on the site of the former Red Barron furniture store, replacing the smaller store on the other side of Artizan Street, developers have said. Sheetz officials say the new site would allow for more parking, improved traffic flow and a more attractive, updated store.

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Clipper said the larger store would be more intrusive than the current one, bringing in more traffic and pollution, and providing a gathering place for "people who are out carousing all night." While the current Sheetz is somewhat "tucked away," the proposed site is surrounded by about 15 historic homes and is adjacent to a Catholic church, he said.

To build the new Sheetz, developers need a special exemption because the town's zoning ordinance does not allow gas pumps on the property, Williamsport Attorney Edward Kuczynski said. Initially, the town's planning and zoning committee recommended against that exemption, saying a 24-hour operation was not consistent with the "Small Town Image" Williamsport promotes. However, the zoning appeals board voted July 17 to grant the special exemption and allow the Sheetz.

If the petitioners move forward with their appeal, that decision will be reviewed in Washington County Circuit Court.

The group, represented by Hagerstown attorney William C. Wantz, filed its appeal petition Aug. 25, and Sheetz and Bowman, represented by Hagerstown attorney Travis W. Poole, filed a notice Sept. 3 indicating their intention to respond to the appeal, court records show. The town of Williamsport has notified the court it intends to participate in the case, according to court records.

Because Williamsport Town Council members Anthony Drury and Jeff Cline signed the petition to appeal, they will need to abstain from representing the town in the matter, Kuczynski said.

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