Plans for proposed Horsham Village Plaza call for hotel, Wawa
By Mark D. Marotta | Wednesday, April 29, 2015
21st Century Media News Service
Horsham >> A commercial development with a hotel, pharmacy, convenience store and restaurant could be coming to the current site of Williamson Banquet and Event Center and the former Intelligencer building at the intersection of Blair Mill, New and Easton roads.
The proposed Horsham Village Plaza would be a joint project of The Verrichia Co. and FC Development Group. Representing Verrichia, attorney Julie Von Spreckelsen, from the law firm of Eastburn and Gray, explained at the April 27 township council meeting that the development would involve the consolidation of four parcels, as well as the realignment of New Road. She described the proposed project as “a great asset” to the community.
Council President Mark McCouch noted that the developers’ plans for “a very unusual project” were quite informal. He added that the council would, at a later date, indicate if it were interested in having the proposal move forward.
Adam Benosky, from Bohler Engineering, said his firm was responsible for devising the sketch plans and explained that the proposal would involve consolidating the Williamson and Intelligencer properties and the elimination of the intersection of New Road and Route 611. New Road instead would connect with a roadway running along the rear of the site, between Route 611 and Blair Mill Road. There would be a right-turn ingress and egress at the intersection of the roadway and Route 611 and signalization of the end at Blair Mill Road.
In addition to the pharmacy and restaurant, the proposed development would include a 5,500-square-foot Wawa with six gasoline dispensing units and a four-story, 100-room hotel, Benosky said. He added that there would internal traffic circulation and pedestrian “connectivity” throughout the site. Benosky also indicated that there would be a green area with signage at the front of the property.
The intersection of Blair Mill, New and Easton roads had been “problematic,” said Matthew Hammond, from Traffic Planning and Design Inc. He told council that relocating New Road would “improve the overall intersection,” as well as traffic flow. As a result, Hammond added, the “stop bar” on Route 611 could be moved southward by 100 feet, allowing more “traffic stacking.” He also said that improvements to Blair Mill Road would include widening, striping and signalization.
According to Hammond, the proposed plan was designed to take into account the Route 611 Transportation Study prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
He added that the new roadway to which New Road would be connected was currently a driveway serving the Pennsylvania Business Campus. It would remain a private driveway, Hammond said. He pointed out that the plans showed a four-way stop at the intersection of New Road and the driveway.
McCouch asked about extending the driveway to Gibraltar Road. Hammond replied that possibility could be investigated, but that there was a grading issue. He also said the proposed access points would best serve residents and others using New Road.
Summarizing the presentation, Von Spreckelsen said the development included a “Welcome to Horsham” gateway sign, as well as “a lot of amenities.” She added that there would be “significant” buffering from neighboring properties.
“We are serious in implementing” the project, Von Spreckelsen said.
The four parcels that would be merged for the project included two residences and have three different zoning designations. Von Spreckelsen said the proposal would be to rezone the entire site as GC-2, with the convenience store requiring conditional use approval.
When asked by McCouch if he had seen the 611 study, Hammond replied that he believed he had a general understanding of it and added that the study had an option for New Road to be turned into a cul-de-sac.
McCouch asked if there were any studies showing how the reconfiguration of New Road would affect traffic.
“It will definitely improve,” Hammond replied.
Asked by Councilman Gregory Nesbitt if the only way to go north from the development onto Route 611 would be by way of Blair Mill Road, Hammond confirmed that would be the case.
McCouch asked whether an alternative access onto Gibraltar Road would require additional land acquisition. Van Spreckelsen replied in the affirmative, but added that an easement would be another possibility. She also said there had been “some preliminary discussions” on that issue.
New Road resident David Janus said he was “concerned about the traffic” coming by his house.
Hammond said he did not know if the amount of traffic on New Road would be any different than at present.
William Schmids, also of New Road, questioned why the street would not be turned into a cul-de-sac where it approached the development.
“That would eliminate any problem,” he added.
Hammond responded that properties up and down New Road would not be able to get to Route 611.
Gary Adams, a Pine Avenue resident who said he owned a number of parcels along Easton Route, called a Wawa a “beacon” bringing in traffic. He added that “it’s really going to impact” the neighboring properties. Adams also said the proposed development would dump traffic onto Blair Mill Road.
“It just doesn’t work,” he added.
While acknowledging that vehicles would be coming in and out of the Wawa, Hammond said “a good amount of it is drive-by traffic … that’s already on the road.”
Lois Beck, of Roberts Avenue, asked if the developers would be willing to conduct a study on the effect on property values, which she said she felt were going to drop because of the proposed project.
Additionally, Beck commented that it was “just my guess” that drivers would use streets like Roberts or Fairoaks avenues to get to Route 611 if they could not get through on New Road.
Another resident, Elizabeth Clash, commented that there were already nine hotels within three miles of the property and characterized the proposal as bringing in kinds of businesses that had already failed in the area. She also expressed concern about having deliveries and trash pickup at businesses operating 24 hours a day.
In response to a remark by Clash about the height of the proposed hotel, McCouch said that was an issue that would be addressed during land development.
“We’d have to work those things out,” he added. “There’s plenty more to do.”
William Carr, of Fairoaks Avenue, asked about buffering, lighting and noise.
Benosky replied that “various things are options” for buffering and that lighting would be subject to the township ordinance.
“I haven’t done a noise study,” he added.
Carr also questioned how the realignment of New Road would affect residents using it to access their homes.
Hammond replied that there were a significant number of accidents at the existing intersection. He added that a “balancing act” was needed between improving safety at the intersection and accommodating residents.
Regardless of whether the proposed development went through, Nesbitt said, the access of New Road from Route 611 needed to be addressed.
“At some point, we have to improve 611,” he said.