North York vote could decide fate of former Central York High School athletic field

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

North York officials plan on voting this week during a special meeting that could decide the fate of the former Central York High School athletic field. 

Representatives for Poppy Lane Ventures LLC, which includes local restaurant owner and entrepreneur Themistoklis Sacarellos, opened dialogue with North York Borough Council members Tuesday evening for how the land at 1100 Columbia Ave. could be used — emphasizing a warehouse.

Zoning for the land currently doesn't permit warehouses, however, and the borough would need to amend its zoning ordinance to allow it.

"We have tried tirelessly to develop this property," Sacarellos said. "We came here because we have a use. This pandemic has exploited the need for these distribution warehouses that are localized and that are near the interstate highways."

More:Developer's pitch gets chilly reception in North York Borough

The land is in the borough's mixed use zone, which allows residential, commercial, industrial and institutional development. 

Mieke Driscoll, an attorney representing Poppy Lane Ventures, said the proposed usage of a warehouse is "consistent" with existing uses already allowed in the borough.

"There is a high demand for localized distribution warehousing, which is the kind of warehousing that would fit on this property," Driscoll said. "We're here because we think this text amendment would really have a positive impact on the borough."

Driscoll and Sacarellos both emphasized the economic advantages a warehouse could bring to the borough, school district and county. 

Officials estimated annual real estate taxes at the property would be roughly $680,000. 

"Adding 'warehouse' to your mixed use would just allow Poppy Lane to fish with a bigger net to attract development that's going to benefit the borough," Driscoll said. 

This isn't the first time Poppy Lane Ventures presented to North York.

In 2019, developers pitched a 120,000-square-foot structure that could serve as a tech center, an iPad repair facility or an Amazon distribution center.

Property containing sports venues at the former Central York High School show signs of disuse Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photozz

Former borough zoning officer Larry Shroyer said a warehouse is only allowed in the mixed use zone if it's an accessory to another primary use. 

During Tuesday's meeting, several officials raised questions, including North York Mayor Nancy Brunk.

Brunk, who lives directly behind the former athletic field, voiced concerns over an increase in noise and air pollution from trucks.

"I know sitting on my deck on a summer afternoon or evening, I hear 83 traffic constantly," Brunk said. "There's a rumble. So that would also increase more rumble in our area."

Developers responded that the four walls of a structure could act as a sound barrier to prevent excess noise in the area.

Sacarellos added that Poppy Lane Ventures is trying to propose a "low service usage" of the land that would not be as "intensive" as other area facilities.

"My restaurant across the highway probably pollutes more than this whole industrial warehouse will," Sacarellos said during the meeting. 

A York County Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss Poppy Lane Venture's plans. 

Interested residents can attend Tuesday's meeting by sending an email to planner@ycpc.org.

In response, North York council unanimously voted to schedule a special meeting and take a vote after the planning commission makes its recommendation. 

The special meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday via Zoom. The meeting will be open to the public. 

Officials said information on how residents can join would be made available at www.northyorkborough.com/, but as of Monday, no information has been posted to the borough's website or Facebook page.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.