High-end gas station pitched
Two new sketch plans were considered by Bethlehem Township Commissioners at their Jan. 21 meeting – a high-end gas station like a Sheetz or Wa-Wa on Nazareth Pike and a senior living facility along Freemansburg Avenue. These are basically informal presentations after which developers can determine whether to move ahead or go back to the drawing board. No action was taken.
Arif Fazil, president of D’Huy Engineering and a well-known professional engineer, has decades of experience representing developers before local government boards. This time, he represented himself. He and Jack Muschlitz, vice president of Muschlitz Excavating, are pitching a project to convert the old Leiser Rental business, located at 3608 Nazareth Pike, into a high-end gas station.
The end user is still unidentified.
This is a 3.8-acre tract located along the northeast corner of Oakland Road and Nazareth Pike. It is next to commercial properties like Dunkin’ Donuts and Josh Early Candies. It is also close to residential neighborhoods. The property has been vacant since Leiser’s Rental moved two miles south to 3464 Linden St.
A sketch plan proposes a 7,600-square-foot convenience store, gasoline pump bay with canopy, parking for 97 vehicles and a stormwater management basin that will filter water across the street and into Monocacy Creek.
Both Nazareth Pike and Oakland Road are state highways, so highway occupancy permits will be needed from Penn-DOT for access. In addition, the state Department of Environmental Protection will have to issue what are called NPDES permits for the stormwater discharge.
Fazil, who lives nearby, pointed out that the combo gas station and convenience store is more than a permitted use. “There’s definitely a need for a gas station in this area,” he said. “The site was really made for this use.”
“I agree it’s needed,” responded President Mike Hudak, who suggested that Fasil’s real problems will be with PennDOT and the discharge of stormwater into a high-quality trout stream. Resident Tom Keifer was a bit more blunt. “You’re going to pollute the hell out of the Monocacy,” he charged.
Fazil disputed this after his presentation. “We’re going to have less impervious coverage than is there now,” he noted. He added that the water will be filtered before it ever hits a stream, and believes he can get the permits.
The engineer-turned developer himself acknowledges that residential neighborhoods are close, and is proposing a buffer to protect neighbors. He was unable to say for sure whether the facility will be open for 24 hours, because an end user is yet to be determined.
Commissioner John Gallagher warned that people going from Oakland Road to Nazareth Pike will use the gas station as a shortcut to avoid waiting at the light.
Fazil and Muschlitz were unable to say when this project would start or the end cost, noting that would depend on the plan review as well as the ultimate end user.
Prominent local attorney Joe Bubba pitched Solebury Senior Living, a 7.8-acre parcel located along the south side of Freemansburg Avenue, between Wagner Drive and Farmersville Road. Heritage Senior Living is proposing a 70,000-square-foot facility with 120 beds. There will be parking for 65 passenger vehicles, stormwater management areas and walking paths It has been called both a nursing home and life care center, both of which are permitted as “special exceptions” under the township’s zoning laws. Township Engineer Brian Dillman is recommending that access from Freemansburg Avenue be limited to emergency vehicles.
Based on multiple complaints from resident Barry Roth, Commissioners adopted a motor vehicle use policy for township-owned vehicles. Under this new policy, only three employees will be able to take township vehicles home. They are the chief of police, fire marshal and K-9 officer.
Roth agreed about the K-9 officer, noting a dog might “lose the scent” if police wait too long to unleash the hounds on a runaway suspect. But he said there was no justification for allowing the police chief or fire marshal to drive township vehicles home.
Commissioner Jack Gallagher was the sole vote against the policy. He said he wants these employees to fill out mileage logs, but Commissioner Malissa Davis countered that would be insulting to two police officers.