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Mixed use project targets Richland Plaza site


With the future of “brick and mortar” retail outlets becoming more questionable, Richland Township is considering a proposal to redevelop a 200-acre shopping center property on West End Boulevard (Route 309) as a mixed-use scenario, with only about one-third of the new development remaining as a shopping center.

Township supervisors held a Conditional Use Hearing on the matter on Monday.

Under the proposal, which was first introduced at the end of last year, the 206,500-square-foot Richland Plaza Shopping Center, located in the Planned Commercial and Arterial Corridor Overlay zoning districts, would be redeveloped to a G17 Flex Building Use, including 77,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 40,000 square feet of research laboratory space, with a 60,500-square-foot retail center to remain.

Earlier this year, supervisors adopted an ordinance allowing for the G17 Flex Building Use to be in the Planned Commercial District, and to add additional permitted uses in it. The ordinance says it makes “significant, substantive changes to the township zoning regulations concerning flex buildings.”

The Conditional Use Hearing for the proposed project was needed to consider “traffic and arterial corridor issues,” understood to refer to changes in vehicle trips per day in and out of the property and the effect on local congestion.

During discussion, a representative for the developer noted “no problem” with a review comment from township engineer Gilmore & Associates that the proposal “demonstrate it is in the best interests of the municipality, the convenience of the community, the public welfare, and be a substantial improvement to the property in the immediate vicinity.”

He also appeared to provide satisfactory answers to a neighbor’s questions about the location of any new traffic; any new noise; and property boundary issues related to concerns like hazardous tree conditions.

“Several retail outlets would appear to present more traffic than a manufacturing facility,” noted Supervisor Chris Vanelli, while board Chairman Tim Arnold noted that “brick and mortar retail outlets are fading away, and we need to think outside the box more often, as we did here,” while appreciating “the good neighbor concern expressed by this developer.”

The next step is to be a report on the Conditional Use Hearing by Solicitor Linc Treadwell at the next supervisors meeting on Nov. 13.

The Quakertown Area Planning Committee, representing six local municipalities and the school district, reviewed and discussed the conditional use application at a meeting last month, and had no comments.

Also at the Oct. 9 meeting, Police Chief Rich Ficco announced that the next Drug Takeback will be held Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the police station on California Road, where there is also a drop box for use during normal business hours. The next shred event will be there on Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to noon.

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