RF 7.16.19

The site of the former Giant supermarket at Sumneytown Pike and Church Road in Upper Gwynedd is now posted with a sign indicating "Zoning approved - join Royal Farms," as seen on Tuesday, July 16 2019. 

UPPER GWYNEDD - Plans for a new Royal Farms fuel station and store on Sumneytown Pike in Upper Gwynedd could include a new offering.

"We did just learn, a day or two ago, that they have applied for either a transfer, or a new, liquor license," said township Planning and Zoning Officer E. Van Rieker.

"It looks harmless enough, but it could go with the Royal Farms, I imagine for package goods, but it's unclear," he said.

Plans for the northeast corner of Sumneytown Pike and Church Road were discussed and reviewed starting in early 2016, about a year after the former Giant supermarket there closed.

Developer Hartford Properties showed the latest version of their plans in a formal hearing starting in August 2018 for a fuel station and convenience store surrounded by two retail buildings. Testimony on those plans continued through September and into October 2018 before the commissioners voted to grant conditional use approval in November 2018.

The lot is now posted with a sign asking potential occupants to "join Royal Farms," with spaces of 1,200 to 15,000 square feet available for retail, medical or office uses.

The latest plans for that project, now dubbed the "Shoppes at Upper Gwynedd" have since been presented to the township's planning commission, Rieker told the commissioners Tuesday night, and will continue later this week at the township's internal plan review committee comprised of staff and board members.

Included in those talks will be the potential liquor license transfer, which Rieker and township Solicitor Dave Onorato said they've just learned about and have few details as of yet.

"It doesn't tell you where they're going to use it, whether they're going to use it within the Royal Farms, or they're going to use it somewhere else on the site," Onorato said.

"We'll know more as we go forward, whether it's going to be a restaurant with a bar somewhere on that site, or whether they plan to serve alcohol at that Royal Farms. We don't know that yet," he said.

Staff have gotten early indications that the liquor license will come from the former Sumney Tavern, which was located on the opposite southwest corner of Sumneytown and Church Road until it closed in June 2018.

Rieker said a similar Royal Farms store in Hatfield Township has sold packaged beer since a liquor license transfer there was approved in late 2017, and commissioner Jim Santi suggested another option.

"They may have just bought it to stop someone else from buying it," Santi said. 

Once more is known, Rieker told the board, he and Onorato will report back on when a formal liquor license transfer hearing would be held, and when the applicant will present more details publicly.

The liquor license transfer would need approval from the commissioners, Onorato said, but criteria that used to limit the number of liquor licenses within a township have been changed, so they no longer limit the number allowed in one area by population.

"It used to be limited by municipality. That changed, so now it's by county - now you can pull them in, and it's easier to transfer them," Onorato said.

On the opposite side of the same intersection, plans for a proposed Wawa store and fuel station remain tied up in court, after the developer challenged a ruling by the township denying those plans.

"It's going back to court, with a date to be determined," Rieker said.

Onorato said he could not give specifics since he is not the township's special counsel for that case, but the current dispute centers on whether the Wawa developer needed a special exception from the zoning board, and the case has been remanded from commonwealth court, back to the Montgomery County court of common pleas, which recently ruled that the township zoning hearing board will need to take more testimony.

"Apparently there's a disagreement on exactly what they're supposed to do, what the lower court told them to do in the order, so it sounds like they're going back to court for clarification," he said.

Upper Gwynedd's commissioners next meet at 7:30 p.m. on July 22 and the Wawa issue will next be heard by the zoning hearing board at 7 p.m. on Aug. 1, both at the township administration building, 1 Parkside Place. For more information visit www.UpperGwynedd.org.

comments powered by Disqus