Councilman Ed Scholl resigns to pursue borough staff position
Nearly a dozen people took to the podium at the Quakertown Borough Council meeting April 21 in an effort to deter officials from handing over the rights of the triangle lot property to Quakertown's General Authority. However, in the end, council voted 6-0, with one abstention, to transfer the property.
The authority is a separate entity of the borough, which will provide the proper legal and business channels to follow when choosing a buyer for the West Broad Street property. Council is considering a proposal by developer, Dave Halliday of Village Centre Properties, to construct a three-story building on the site. The rescheduled work session meeting held April 21 provided an outlet for discussion among stakeholders in the heart of the downtown, as well as Halliday, regarding the $6 million project.
According to Halliday, plans for the site include a three-story office style building within the triangle parking lot, the first level of which would contain of a brew-pub/micro-brew style restaurant with approximately 40 tables including outdoor seating. Halliday provided a detailed presentation regarding his plan for the site and the potential for additional angled street parking to compensate for the loss of the parking lot.
Halliday said he has possessed an interest in the borough for 10 years and noted that his recent proposal stems from council's efforts to revitalize the downtown area.
"When people are hanging out downtown and walking around to the shops or to eat at a restaurant, this means a revitalization has occurred. I believe this building will bring a lot of life to the triangle park," Halliday said.
Christopher Sipes, an architect from Keystone Architecture of Perkasie, gave a rundown of how the parking would be adapted. Although the plan is in its preliminary stages, Sipes said up to 60 on-street spaces would be available – an increase from the 28 spaces presently in the lot.
"We need to engage all of you in the design. Working together would be a super asset to bringing businesses into Quakertown," Sipes said at the meeting.
However, many residents and business owners voiced their concerns about the triangle lot development, as well as the proposed traffic pattern changes that have been in the works for several months.
Borough resident Sandy Shelly said, "I have concerns with the two-way traffic pattern changes and tractor trailers. It is already hard to cross at Third and Broad streets as a pedestrian. And, aesthetically, a three-story building put in a beautiful open space isn't pleasing to look at."
If approved, the traffic pattern on West Broad Street would change from one-way traffic traveling east to two-way traffic. Branch Street would continue to be one-way traveling west, but would only be a one-lane road instead of a two-lane road.
Borough resident Mike Clisham said, "We aren't disagreeing we need a change, but I'm not sure if this is the right project. Other places like Perkasie and Doylestown have a different route for trucks, we don't."
Borough Manager Scott McElree said, "In about 30 days we'll hear back from PennDOT on the traffic study and the possibility it will need to be studied further or approved as is."
"PennDOT needs to approve the traffic pattern changes before the project goes through," Council President Jim Roberts added.
The overall consensus of the stakeholders and residents who spoke during the meeting reflects two areas of concern: parking and changes in traffic patterns.
"Our mission is to bring people into Quakertown," Halliday said, adding that he believes the issues in question can be resolved. In regard to choosing another location within the borough, Halliday said, "Picking another building would stall the revitalization of the downtown."
The conclusion of the discussion brought in a 6-0 vote in favor of transferring the property to the Quakertown General Authority, Roberts abstained from the vote due to an ethical conflict of interest as a business owner.
Councilman Dan Williams reflected on his vote by stating, "I was on the fence for a while before making my decision. My view of the downtown parking lot project is it will raise property values downtown and bring jobs, making Quakertown a destination and not a place to drive through."
At the close of the meeting, Councilman Ed Scholl read a personal statement announcing his resignation from his position on council effective April 28. Scholl, who has been a council member since 2008, admitted to being saddened by his decision but plans to pursue the borough's recently posted position of Economic Development Consultant.
A decision will be made on Scholl's replacement at the next scheduled council meeting May 7.