The Unity Township Planning Commission on Tuesday voted to recommend preliminary site plan approval for a proposed Dollar General store along Route 30 near Beatty Crossroads.
Developer Timothy Weinman, principal and vice chairman of PennTex Ventures, told the planning commission the planned discount retailer would represent a significant improvement to the vacant property.
“It’s a very worn site,” Weinman said of the current state of the property. “It’s overgrown, it has dilapidated, abandoned buildings. What we intend to do... we’re going to turn this terrible corner with ugly signage and not a very attractive entrance into our community into a beautifully landscaped and attractive building.”
He touted the jobs a new store would bring, as well as a boost in tax revenue once the property is developed.
Project engineers are awaiting the findings of a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) highway occupancy permit (HOP) as well as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and other stormwater management-related items.
“All things being equal, if we’re able to gain the appropriate approvals and the HOP from PennDOT, we expect to start construction this summer and be open by this fall,” Weinman said.
Plans call for a 9,100-square-foot store, parking and loading space and a stormwater basin on the currently vacant property at the corner of Route 30 East and Smiths Hill Road.
Weinman said large trucks will visit the store about once per week, accessing the store from Route 30 East and backing into a loading area at the rear of the property. Smaller trucks hauling soft drinks, bread and other items will also make deliveries, he added, typically parking in the store’s parking lot.
The finish of the building’s east-facing wall gave the planning commission pause, with several members noting that wall, which in plans was covered with vertical metal siding rather than the split face block masonry work on the sides of the building facing Route 30 and Smiths Hill Road, would be “the first thing people see,” as they approach the store driving east on Route 30.
Weinman said finishing a third wall of the building with masonry work wouldn’t be feasible, but developers would gladly plant trees to obscure the view of that wall from the highway. The Auto Tag Store adjacent to the Dollar General site would also partially obscure the view of the eastern wall of the new store.
The sides of the building facing Route 30 and Smiths Hill Road will include faux windows to visually break up the masonry block façade.
Weinman said plans call for right-in, right-out access to and from Route 30 East with a secondary entrance to the parking lot from Smiths Hill Road. Motorists traveling west on Route 30 can already turn left onto Smiths Hill Road, he noted, and drivers coming from Smiths Hill Road can currently make left turns to Route 30 West.
The township’s zoning hearing board last week expressed concerns regarding potential traffic problems at Smiths Hill Road, but voted 4-1 to recommend requested variances reducing the required number of parking spaces at the store and for signage on the store’s façades.
Dollar General spokesperson Mary Kathryn Colbert previously told the Bulletin company officials are in the “due diligence phase” of bringing a new store to the township.
“We are reviewing the opportunity to add a new store in the area, but we have not committed to doing so just yet,” she said in an email. “Based on our current timeline, we anticipate to have a final decision on this by late summer 2020.”
The new Route 30 East location is being explored despite several Dollar General stores in the area, including a store at Latrobe 30 Shoppes in Unity Township and two stores in the City of Latrobe.
Colbert said the company bases new locations on “where we can offer customers an easy and convenient shopping choice as we generally serve customers within a three to five mile radius, or 10-minute drive. We also take competitive factors, traffic patterns and community concerns into consideration.”
She said the proposed store would employ approximately six to 10 employees.