Proposed Unity Sheetz elicits traffic, runoff concerns from neighbors |
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Jeff Himler

People who live near the site of a proposed Sheetz convenience store in Unity told township supervisors Tuesday they’re concerned about the impact the development would have on traffic and storm water runoff.

Township Solicitor Gary Falatovich said the supervisors will wait until their Aug. 8 meeting to vote on Skilken Gold Real Estate Development’s request to develop the 6,100-square-foot Sheetz store at the northeast corner of Route 30 and Theater Street. The combination of a convenience store and pumps for fueling up to 16 vehicles requires approval as a conditional use in the business zone at that intersection, Falatovich said.

A preliminary site plan displayed at a Tuesday hearing shows only right-in and right-out access to the store along the divided highway, with a secondary entrance designated along Theater Street. The plan also calls for a drive-through take-out lane, about 40 parking spaces and seating for customers inside and outside of the store.

Sales of alcoholic beverages might be included at the store, with approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, said Ryan Herchenroether, Skilken’s director of development

Sarah Krivonik, who lives on Theater Street near the proposed Sheetz, asked if a lane for eastbound Route 30 traffic turning left onto Theater would be extended to accommodate motorists headed to the store.

She noted many buses and students pass through the intersection to reach the Greater Latrobe high school campus, via Theater Street south of Route 30. During periods of heavy traffic, she said, “it takes me 8 to 10 minutes to get out of my driveway. I can’t cut my grass after 2 p.m. because of the traffic along the road.”

“That’s a bad intersection,” agreed Dorothy Skoloda, who lives nearby on Driving Street.

Project engineer Ryan Balko, of the GPD Group, couldn’t say how many vehicles are expected to travel in and out of the store during a given time. Any proposed modifications to the intersection would depend on a traffic study under way, in accordance with PennDOT guidelines, said Herchenroether.

Herchenroether said traffic counts were completed earlier this month. Falatovich noted the traffic study is in its early stages and could take some time to complete.

One audience member said the counts should be taken when school is in session and there is more traffic at the intersection.

Several nearby residents complained of storm water runoff onto their properties and wanted to know how Sheetz and Skilken would control the runoff at the planned store. After recent rainstorms, Krivonik said, “You can come to my backyard and wade in water.”

Balko said runoff would be directed into a retention pond at the eastern end of the 3.5-acre site and then released at a slower rate into an existing storm water system on adjacent Golf Street.

If Skilken receives approval of the conditional use, Falatovich said, the firm then will have to submit a completed site plan for approval, along with a storm water management plan.

Gwen Moreland, co-owner of the western portion of the development site and of Geo’s restaurant and lounge there, said Skilken will have to correct a slope on the property to redevelop it for Sheetz, which should abate some of the runoff concerns.

Moreland said Geo’s will continue normal operations pending finalization of plans for the Sheetz development. “We’re not closing anytime soon, until this is a done deal,” she said. “We’ll be open and functioning as usual.”

According to spokesman Nick Ruffner, Sheetz hopes to begin construction of the new store next spring with a projected opening late in the summer of 2020.

Moreland indicated she and her husband are looking to move on after 12 years at the site marked by inadequate support from the local community and complaints from neighbors about the lounge portion of the business.

“It’s just not meant to be a bar,” Moreland said of the property. “It needs to be something more corporate for you guys in the long run.

“We can’t keep everybody happy, and we can’t be successful and thrive.”

“I frequent Geo’s, and I’m going to miss them,” Skoloda said.

Krivonik asked if Sheetz would consider installing a perimeter fence, and limiting the hours when it receives deliveries and when music is played over speakers in the fueling area, to minimize disturbance of neighbors on Theater and Golf streets.

Zoning regulations call for a buffer of at least 60 feet between the proposed store and adjacent homes, Falatovich said.

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