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Springettsbury Township should not change its zoning ordinance to accommodate a proposed mini-storage center in the former retail space once occupied by The Bon-Ton in the York Galleria mall, according to the York County Planning Commission's recommendation.

The mall is included in a "town center" overlay on the township's zoning map. The overlay was intended to help plan and develop a walkable retail area, county planners said.

"If those purposes are supposed to be to encourage walkable shopping, mini-storage is not walkable shopping," planning commission board member Mike Pritchard said at a meeting Tuesday.

The definition of the town center overlay in the township's zoning ordinance specifically prohibits mini-storage, he said.

But the Springettsbury Township Planning Commission already approved the proposed change and would rather have a mini-storage facility than an empty storefront, said Mike Shaffer, a municipal planner with the county planning commission.

There will be a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Springettsbury Township municipal building for residents to add their comments to the record for the township board of supervisors' consideration.

W.P. Carey is the company looking to open the mini-storage facility at the mall.

Alex Snyder, the attorney representing W.P. Carey, told the York County planning board it's important to consider the difference between indoor and outdoor mini-storage.

"It’s different than if you have your typical pole building with a bunch of garage doors along the side," Snyder said. "That’s not what we’re talking about."

More: Bon-Ton will close after liquidators win bankruptcy auction

More: EDITORIAL: Demise of local Bon-Ton, Sears stores shows online shopping comes at a cost

The indoor mini-storage facility at the old Bon-Ton store would be completely self-contained in the store's existing footprint, he said, and aside from replacing the sign on the front of the building, not much else would change.

Springettsbury Township has excellent police services, parks and roads, and all of that is a function of a healthy economic environment, said township manager Ben Marchant on Thursday.

"Obviously if buildings are sitting vacant, it’s not generating the kind of economic activity that’s going to prosper the community," he said.

The county planning commission's recommendation is nonbinding, and Marchant said it will be up to the township supervisors to decide whether to amend the language in the town center overlay to allow the storage business to open in the former Bon-Ton.

There is another mini-storage facility — Capital Self Storage — already operating in the town center overlay in the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on East Market Street, Marchant said, but that business was already there when the township approved the overlay.

The Bon-Ton Stores filed for bankruptcy in February 2018 and closed a few months later. The Bon-Ton property is owned separately from the rest of the mall, but the York Galleria itself has struggled in recent years with shuttered storefronts and loss of property value.

But there is economic development on the horizon.

Penn National Gaming is slated to open a mini-casino in the former Sears store at the mall around the end of 2020, a company representative confirmed Monday.

"We’re hopeful that there will be considerable interest in reinvesting in the mall with the advent of Hollywood Casino going in to anchor the west end of the property," Marchant said.

More: State board OKs Hollywood Casino gambling license in Springetts

More: Could a proposed casino revive the York Galleria Mall?

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