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Unsettled issues surround bowling alley project

October 05, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A developer hoping to open a bowling alley and a nightclub on Leitersburg Pike is challenging a county official's stance on required parking.

Vehicle access to the site might be another hurdle before Aristodemos Capital Group LLC can open Seven Ten Family Entertainment Center, with a tenpin bowling alley, restaurant and arcade. It would be where Long Meadow Bowl, a duckpin alley, closed in May after 38 years.

Aristodemos also wants to open a nightclub where Eclipse Nite Club and, most recently, Antietam Moose 2435 were.

The bowling alley might open by early 2010, and the nightclub later, said Ash Azadi, Aristodemos' managing partner.

Daniel DiVito, Washington County's permits and inspections director, said parking and access are two big questions before the project can get zoning certifications.

DiVito -- who denied a certification application for the nightclub in February -- said Aristodemos is making major changes to vacant property, so a site plan is required. Azadi, though, said the building used for bowling as recently as May is being upgraded and a site plan isn't needed.

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On one point, DiVito and Azadi agree -- a new bowling alley and nightclub might need 250 to 300 parking spaces, but the lot only has 150 or 160.

The county's parking requirement is five spaces per lane at a bowling alley. Aristodemos plans 22 lanes, which would need 110 spaces.

DiVito said the developers must at the same time explain their future plans for the nightclub section.

Although DiVito insists the county won't allow off-site parking, Azadi said Thursday he's negotiating with Long Meadow Shopping Center owner RD Management to use its parking area, making up for the shortfall for the nightclub plan.

RD Management didn't respond to several requests for comment. Debra Hunt, the shopping center's marketing director, said last week in a voice-mail message, "I know that Long Meadow will not approve overflow parking for the new establishment."

Azadi said it's unfair for the county to ban off-site parking now after allowing it for Eclipse and the Moose Lodge.

"Common sense has to play a role at some point," he said.

In a Dec. 8, 2008, letter to architect M. Scott Bowen, DiVito said Eclipse and the Moose Club aren't relevant. The Moose Club was private, with different parking requirements, and Eclipse's parking arrangement with Long Meadow was permitted "under different circumstances and a under a different administrator," DiVito wrote.

The status of a key, long-allowed entrance point also is unknown.

There's no direct entrance from Leitersburg Pike to the bowling alley parcel. Instead, vehicles have entered through a shopping center lane that abuts the bowling alley lot.

Hunt called it "probably highly doubtful" RD Management will allow that access anymore.

Azadi, though, said he's confident the access point will stay. He said it's become a prescriptive easement, in which use of a property for a long period creates a right to further use.

The access point, while significant, might not keep Aristodemos from opening a bowling alley.

DiVito said the county might let an Oak Hill Avenue entrance, at the rear of the property, be the only access point, after a public hearing.

DiVito and Brennan Garrett, the county's chief plans examiner, also said the arcade, on its own, might need one space per 80 square feet as a recreational establishment. Azadi said the arcade is part of the bowling alley.

After Eclipse closed, Antietam Moose 2435 used that space until August 2008.

Aristodemos purchased the building and land from Turner Development Co. for $2.01 million in April.

Azadi said Aristodemos plans to spend about $5.9 million on the project and create more than 60 full- and part-time family entertainment center jobs, which are posted at www.710bowl.com.

In recent years, Long Meadow Shopping Center has shown signs of rebounding with new shops, such as Pennsylvania Dutch Market. A current four-phase upgrade includes renovations to the former Sears building.

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