- Grove City, Pennsylvania

September 14, 2012

Planned Sheetz fuels questions

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Slippery Rock council members and Sheetz Inc. representatives spent two hours Tuesday going over the company's application to build a new gas station and convenience store in the borough.

Topics at the public hearing ranged from what kind of fencing should be built around the 1.307-acre property at the northeastern corner of North Main and Franklin streets to the potential removal of five on-street parking spaces.

The store would replace the current Sheetz just up the street at 304 S. Main. The Altoona-based company is looking for council to allow a gas station to be built on the proposed site, which includes eight lots Sheetz is in the process of buying, said James McCormick, attorney for Sheetz and the company's founder, G. Robert "Bob" Sheetz.

"None of those transactions have closed yet. We're ready and willing to close," McCormick said.

Some of those lots are vacant pieces of land while others have buildings Sheetz would tear down, like the former Crisis Pregnancy Support Center, said David Mastrostefano, the engineering permit manager for Sheetz.

Council has already approved the land development plan and the lot consolidation plan and expects to vote on the application for conditional use at their Sept. 4 meeting.

Under Pennsylvania laws that address fueling stations, Sheetz meets the criteria to operate one at the new location, McCormick said, a statement later confirmed by John Rusnak of HRG Engineering Inc., Cranberry Township, the borough's engineer.

The current Sheetz will close when the new one opens and the company will remove the underground storage tanks and canopies, leaving the shell of the building and parking lot, Mastrostefano said.

"It's basically functionally obsolete," he said of the structure, built in 1981.

The Gateway Engineers Inc., Pittsburgh, is developing the site plan under Mastrostefano's direction and the new building will be about 7,000 square feet.

There will be landscaping and green spaces throughout the property, a sidewalk around the store and entrances facing Franklin and North Main, he said.

Loading and delivery areas will be on the side and rear of the store, also where commercial garbage bins will be enclosed.

Outdoor seating is planned along with measures for safe traffic and pedestrian flow, Mastrostefano said.

A traffic impact study done by engineers at David E. Wooster and Associates Inc., Pittsburgh, recommends adding a left-turn-only lane to North Main in front of Sheetz and updating the pedestrian signals to show a timer counting down the seconds to cross instead of the flashing symbol of a person, said Charles Wooster, company president; Sheetz would pay for that work.

In order for Sheetz to get a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT, five parking spaces on the east side of North Main must be eliminated because of sight distance deficiencies for traffic that would be exiting the parking lot, he said.

"You're taking public parking off of our borough street. What are you doing to replace them?" Councilor Bob Bowser asked.

The Montessori preschool on North Main relies on those spaces as do surrounding businesses; Sheetz isn't putting enough effort into this project, he said, with McCormick disagreeing.

Mayor Ken Harris asked how Cooper Tires, a building next to the proposed site that Sheetz is buying to demolish, can have a driveway in the same spot where the gas station will have one and keep those five spaces.

It must be "luck and longevity" and PennDOT doesn't have the manpower to police all driveways on state roads, Wooster said.

"I liken it to jaywalkers," he said.

Wooster later said those five spaces would be a no-parking zone but the area could still be used for loading and unloading the preschool students.

The hearing moved on to fencing with council members saying they'd prefer decorative, wrought-iron fences around the property, which would fit in with the borough's downtown streetscape.

"I think the fence is an important issue," said Neva Stanger, the borough's solicitor.

Board-on-board fencing or anything too high would detract from the property's well-maintained surroundings, like the State Farm Insurance building, council member Jerry Heller said.

Council member Ron Steele jokingly suggested adding "jagger bushes" to keep college students from climbing the fences, a comment that made the crowd laugh.

Mastrostefano assured council that shrubs, small trees and other landscaping will be placed in front of the fencing to make it more presentable, and Sheetz will mill and overlay School Street and Legion Alley, which border the site.

Bowser said he's not against Sheetz, but a lot of time and money has been spent on giving the town a "village atmosphere."

"I don't feel this enhances that at all," he said, also apologizing for his "confrontational nature."

During public comment, local business owner and Rotary Club member Sonya Lenz suggested Sheetz add recycling bins for customers.

"We are becoming more conscious of that," said Lenz, who's also involved with Slippery Rock in Bloom, a Rotary-based volunteer group that's been beautifying the borough.

If all of Sheetz's requests to continue with the project are approved, construction could start in early spring and the store would be open by summer's end, Mastrostefano said.

"Sheetz, owning over 400 stores, tries to be a good neighbor," McCormick said.

Sheetz operates 430 stores in six states, including 223 in Pennsylvania, Mastrostefano said.

Published Aug. 25, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.