Springettsbury supervisors reject Modernaire rezoning plan

Julia Scheib
The Modernaire Motel is at the center of a controversy over its demolition.

The Springettsbury Township Board of Supervisors Thursday night did what many residents were hoping they would do.

By a 4-1 vote, the board denied developer Spring Lane LLC's plan to rezone 12.5 acres on the northeast corner of East Market Street and Mount Zion Road.

The developer's plan involved the demolition of 12 parcels, including the Modernaire Motel and Bloomingdale house, and the construction of a shopping center in their place.

However, the board's vote does not guarantee the area won't soon look very different.

What's possible: Residents who didn't want to see the local landmarks demolished or another strip mall go up might be dismayed to hear that the supervisors' rejection of the rezoning plan does not protect those structures, and commercial development is allowed under the area's current zoning.

"Voting 'no' on this zoning change does nothing to prevent the demolition of buildings on that property," said Mark Swomley, chair of the board and the lone person who voted against the denial of the request.

Before the vote, Supervisor William Schenck said he didn't feel prepared to vote on the issue and voiced his opposition to the fact that the vote had not been advertised on the board's agenda.

Schenck voted to deny the request but seemed ambivalent.

"There's a number of permitted uses that exist (in the area that was to be developed) today," he said after the meeting. The area is zoned as "neighborhood commercial" and without even coming before the board, he said, a developer could tear down what is in the area now and build, for example, a drugstore or barber shop.

Swomley shared Schenck's concern that the area could become host to a series of small commercial developments.

"There are a number of uses that might be less desirable (than what the developer was planning)," he said.

Swomley said he thought the rezoning plan would have calmed traffic problems in the area rather than exacerbate them, as residents feared. Without a coordinated plan to direct motorists around new places of business, traffic in the area could become less organized, he said.

The rezoning would have applied the commercial highway zoning designation to the area with a town center overlay, he said. That combination is "much more regulated" than other types of zoning, requiring the developer to leave a certain amount of green space and make the area friendly to pedestrians, he said.

Opposition: At a public hearing in October, attorney Jeff Lobach, who represented Spring Lane, said the center would feature a Lidl Grocery store and potentially restaurants, small shops or financial services.

At that hearing, several township residents voiced their opposition to the plans.

They cited increased traffic, spot zoning and the demolition of historic properties in their arguments advocating the township's rejection of the rezoning plan.

The county planning commission reviewed the company's request for rezoning in July and advised the Springettsbury Township Planning Commission not to approve it.

George Dvoryak, vice chairman of the board of supervisors, said the township's planning commission then went against that recommendation and recommended that the board approve the request.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.