Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Belmont meetings are quiet affairs
Big MT project Belmont meetings are quiet affairs BY DAVID O'CONNOR, Staff Writer
There was another nearly empty meeting room at the Manheim Township municipal building Monday night.
And that has pretty much been the case each time the township commissioners have held their twice-a-month hearings on one of the largest projects ever proposed in the township.
And the developer of Belmont -- the multimillion-dollar mix of shops and homes eyed along Fruitville Pike -- thinks those empty seats mean that nearby residents support his project.
"People who had the most concerns (about Belmont) were the neighbors; we met with them early on, and they seemed satisfied," Kevin Lahn said Monday, as the hearing before the commissioners continued.
Held two hours at a time after the regular commissioners' business meetings each month, the Belmont hearings are now entering their home stretch.
But "as far as when (the process) will be over, who knows?" Lahn said.
The hearings before the township board started last summer and are expected to continue at least into next month. Two more witnesses are expected to speak on behalf of the applicants, Lahn said Monday.
The five Manheim Township commissioners have the final vote on the conditional-use request, which would allow the project to proceed.
Lahn, vice president of R.J. Waters & Associates of Kennett Square, thinks Belmont, if built, will be "the nicest-looking shopping center we've ever developed," and it also will be the first mixed-use project featuring commercial and residential aspects he has done.
His firm manages 23 shopping centers, and, he added, "and I think this will be the nicest of all of them."
Belmont would offer 350,000 square feet of retail space -- the equivalent of seven football fields -- plus 132 apartments, 61 townhomes and 11 upscale single-family homes.
It's proposed for 70 acres east of Fruitville Pike, just south of Route 30 and across from the Red Rose Commons shopping center.
Two entrances off Fruitville Pike are planned: one to align with the Red Rose Commons entrance and the other at the southern end of the complex.
Lahn is proposing a mix of pedestrian-friendly smaller shops and restaurants along Fruitville Pike. Toward the middle of the property would be larger, connected stores. What exactly those stores would be has yet to be announced.
Despite the lack of opposition to the project from neighbors -- which usually indicates acceptance of a new project -- a Manheim Township board last year recommended denial of Belmont.
The township planning commission, an advisory board that makes recommendations to the commissioners, unanimously urged denial of the Belmont conditional-use application.
Planner Michel Gibeault at that time said the planning board felt, generally, that the Belmont plan did present a nice mix of retail, residential and other uses, but the panel members would have liked to have seen "a more unified approach."
Lahn said Monday that "we have confidence we can make this project a success once we get started."
The township commissioners will resume discussing Belmont at their next meeting, on Monday, Feb. 25. They will hold their regular business meeting at the township building at 5:30 p.m., then resume the Belmont hearing when the regular meeting ends, most likely at 6 or 6:30 p.m.
n At their regular business meeting earlier Monday night, the commissioners approved a new officer for the township police, Kenneth Heffley, who last served with Northern York Regional Police and is a U.S. Army veteran.
"People who had the most concerns (about Belmont) were the neighbors; we met with them early on, and they seemed satisfied."