Springetts changes rules to allow mini-storage at York Galleria

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
A proposed self-storage center will be taking over the former retail space occupied by The Bon-Ton in the York Galleria Mall, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Springettsbury Township officials voted Thursday to change its zoning ordinance to accommodate a proposed mini-storage center that would occupy space formerly occupied by The Bon-Ton in the York Galleria mall.

The narrow 3-2 vote came after a divided board of supervisors debated the merits of the proposed storage facility for about 30 minutes. 

"I think when we look to the future of the mall, the best we can do at this point in this era of retail transformation is stabilize the occupancy and activity in the mall," said Charles Wurster, a supervisor who voted in favor of changing the ordinance.

The York Galleria 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, officials said.

The definition of the town center overlay in the township's zoning ordinance specifically prohibited mini-storage — until now. 

A proposed self-storage center will be taking over the former retail space occupied by The Bon-Ton in the York Galleria Mall, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The York County Planning Commission recommended against the township changing its ordinance. 

"If those purposes are supposed to be to encourage walkable shopping, mini-storage is not walkable shopping," planning commission board member Mike Pritchard said Feb. 18.

On Thursday, Mark Swomely, chairman of the township's board of supervisors, also said he was uncertain mini-storage is the answer to help revive the York Galleria.

"Are we jumping from the frying pan into the fire?" Swomely asked. "Should we be looking for other uses in there? Let's think outside the box; what else could there be?"

Supervisor Robert Cox joined Swomely in dissent. They were outnumbered by Supervisors Donald Bishop and George Dvoryak, who voted with Wurster in support of the zoning amendment.

Though one supervisor suggested turning the space into office units, the idea was dismissed by Blaze Cambruzzi, a True Commercial Real Estate managing partner, who said the adjacent casino coming to the mall squandered any chance of professional use.

More:State board OKs Hollywood Casino gambling license in Springetts

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

Officials said developers moved forward with mini-storage before they knew the casino was going to be approved, because uncertainty limited proposals for what could go into the former Bon-Ton.

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

Alex Snyder, the attorney representing W.P. Carey, said the retail market doesn't support "big box" stores anymore and that the next logical step to maintaining the mall would be mini-storage. 

"We think this is a way to take a building where there's nothing wrong with it, and put a use in that there really is a need for in the township," Snyder said. "From the outside, no one will know any different other than the building will be fixed up and repaired."

The York Galleria Mall, Tuesday, February 5, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

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

No public comment was made during the hearing. 

"I still have reservations," Swomely said. "I have to believe there are better and higher uses available for that when the casino is going to start to draw more people into the area."

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