By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHEPPTON - Before the East Union Township Zoning Hearing Board at its meeting on Thursday were two matters: an appeal to the rezoning of a portion of land in Sheppton related to the Dollar General, and a request to allow a self storage facility in Oneida.
The first three minutes of the nearly hour-and-a-half meeting were for the Sheppton matter, in which Michael J. Kakaley, 993 Center Street, filed a "substantive validity challenge" regarding the rezoning of 33.8 acres of property in Sheppton, a portion of which was his property. Kakaley's attorney, Donald Karpowich, and East Union's solicitor, Joseph Baranko, noted an agreement was reached for the denial of the matter by the board, since the board can only make a recommendation on the matter. Kakaley will instead appeal to the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas.
The rest of the meeting pertained to a 230+ unit self storage facility planned in Oneida, on property owned by Tyler Shustack, of Turkey Run.
Shustack appealed to the board, requesting permission to construct the facility on a site between Nuremberg Mountain Road and South Street in the village. The 6.4 acre property is currently zoned Conservation Residential, which does not permit such a use.
The site plan included six sets of storage units, as well as canopy storage areas, which Shustack said would be for boats or other vehicles. The facility would front South Street. As originally planned, the facility would be accessible 24/7 to tenants.
Concerns were raised by township residents and the board regarding its location, visibility from neighboring properties, traffic impacts, and safety concerns regarding items stored at the site.
Regarding the visibility, Shustack noted the facility would be surrounded by a privacy fence and trees, though Oneida residents questioned the effectiveness, considering the elevation of neighboring homes in relation to the proposed site.
"No matter how tall these arborvitaes can grow, my house is going to be able to see these storage units," said Rhiannon Mummey, Oneida. "I'm at the top of Third Street. I'll clearly be able to see the top of these. It'll be a metal eyesore in my view."
Donna Gulash questioned the ability of South Street to handle such traffic, as well as the benefit of the site to the community.
"The streets are narrow, and he's talking about putting outside canopies in for boats, and large trucks," said Gulash. "Well now you have these trailers coming through Oneida and backing up. The people that live right there on South Street, my mother for one, they're going to be backing up, in her driveway, on her property. I really don't understand how it's going to improve the residential value of the homes. Not at all... I really don't see the benefit to the citizens. For him, yes, but what it's going to do for the community, that's the big question."
"The roads aren't really big enough to swing (a boat) in there. And the people that are by the post office, I wouldn't want people driving in my yard," said Paul Richards. "To me, it doesn't even make sense."
Another township resident, drawing off of public comment, provided a brief statement.
"I think the people of Oneida have spoken, and they're sick of this nonsense getting jammed down their throats," said Michael Martz.
Another worried that the addition of commercial properties to Oneida would ruin the small village ideal that drew them to the community.
"With something like this happening, we're a village, and there's only 200 people that live up there, and that was one of the main reasons I moved up there three years ago, so that I didn't have a commercial property or storage units or retail stores right there," said John Angart, Oneida. "That was a reason for us to move out of the city, whether it be Shenandoah or Hazleton, we're trying to stay away from that... we don't stand to gain from having a storage unit in our backyard."
The concerns were taken into account by the board, and, after two executive sessions and a recusal by board member and Oneida resident James Sency, the board came back with a vote to approve with conditions.
The conditions included: a review and approval by the East Union Township Planning Commission; structures and fencing must be up to code; operations hours would be restricted from dawn to dusk instead of 24/7; the current construction equipment stored on the property must be removed; visual inspections of stored items must be performed before items are stored, including checking for "dangerous and toxic materials."
A motion was made to approve, and subsequently approved 3-0.