Hellertown Starbucks Proposal Held Up Due to Traffic, Other Concerns

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Bank of America Starbucks

Nearly two years after it closed, there are plans to open a Starbucks in the former Bank of America branch at Main Street and Polk Valley Road in Hellertown. Citing concerns about traffic flow, the intersection itself and design elements, the borough planning commission earlier this month tabled its discussion of the plan until June.

Premium coffee-drinkers of Hellertown are going to have to wait at least a little longer to get their lattes and frappuccinos, as a proposal for a Starbucks in the former Bank of America branch at 5 Main Street (Rt. 412) was tabled by the borough planning commission May 12 after planners cited traffic and other concerns.

As previously reported here, plans for the new location were first announced in February. At the May 12 virtual meeting, Peter Gluszko of Gluszko Architects presented a site plan to convert the former bank property, which is owned by Tornig Realty LLC of Englewood, N.J. Since the property sits within the Shoppes at Hellertown plaza, a reconfiguring part of the parking lot will be necessary, with the blueprints calling for removing the drive-thru teller window from the Polk Valley Road side of the building to the rear. Gluszko explained that the reconfigured parking lot would effectively add five spaces, including three handicapped spots.

With tentative hours of operation of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., several commissioners expressed concern with how a line of cars at the drive-thru window could potentially affect morning traffic in the vicinity.

Vice chair Matthew Milliren and commissioner Maria Diaz-Joves were vocal about potential traffic safety issues, especially once schools reopen and buses are added to the equation. Chair Philip Weber seconded these concerns, citing lined-up cars backed up onto Main Street as a possible hazard and stating that he would not vote to approve the plan before seeing the developer’s Highway Occupancy Permit, which would be required from PennDOT, as both Main Street and Polk Valley Road are state roads.

No changes are expected to be made to the parking lot entrance and exit, respectively, on Main Street, but Gluszko’s plans do include the addition of landscaping with grass and parking stops on the Polk Valley Road side of the property. Commissioner Kim LaBrake expressed some concern about plans to paint the existing brick facade on the building, which some of her colleagues seconded. It was also mentioned that there are still no plans for a traffic light at the intersection of Main Street and Polk Valley Road, despite a history of feedback from residents requesting that one be constructed.

A traffic light was at one time approved for the intersection, however progress on installing it ended after Hellertown Borough Council withdrew their support for the plan.

Due to these lingering questions, particularly the traffic-related concerns, commissioner Joseph Pampanin moved to table the proposal until the commission’s June meeting, which is scheduled to be held Tuesday, June 9 at 7 p.m. via WebEx and Facebook.

Meetings are open to the public, with pre-registration available for the virtual events.

Commissioner Francene Drake seconded the motion to table and it was approved.

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