Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg, AutoZone continue long disagreement over proposed retail store

Harrisburg City Council on Tuesday evening.

Harrisburg city and a national auto parts chain continued a long deadlock on Tuesday night over a plan to build a retail store on an empty patch of land in Uptown Harrisburg.

Attorney David Tshudy asked City Council to drop several conditions imposed by the city on AutoZone’s development plan for a lot at N. 7th and Maclay streets, property currently owned by the Vartan Group.

Tshudy said that Memphis-based AutoZone disagreed with Planning Commission conditions to change the project design that would reorient the 6,816-square-foot building to bring it closer to Maclay Street.

“The building is within the building envelope as required,” he said. “It is perfectly legal and should be allowed to remain there.”

A second condition, which would remove a proposed access point off of busy N. 7th Street, dominated much of the discussion.

Tshudy repeated what he told Planning Commission members previously. He said that AutoZone and the city met in April to iron out differences and that he left that meeting thinking that the city had agreed to a 7th Street driveway, but only for right-in, right-out access.

By a 3-1 vote, the commission approved the land development plan in July, but without permitting the 7th Street access.

On Tuesday, several council members asserted that entry and exit from 7th Street would create safety issues.

“We’ve had several major accidents there,” said council President Wanda Williams.

Williams added that, with more development planned for the area, safety concerns would only grow over time.

“You have continuous construction in that area,” she said. “You have a new commonwealth building on 7th St. It’s going to be very congested. I wish you would reconsider coming in from the 7th Street corridor.”

Council member Shamaine Daniels took issue with what she perceived to be AutoZone’s reluctance to change their plan to meet community concerns.

“You guys didn’t even consider some of these alternatives because you didn’t have to,” she said. “You’re moving into a residential area.”

Several council members said that they welcomed economic development projects like the AutoZone store, but that they also had to take into account community concerns.

“I’d like to see the development of an AutoZone there, but I also would like it to be safe,” Williams said.

Council member Dave Madsen said that the discussion would continue at council’s next legislative session on Dec. 17, followed by a possible vote on the land use plan. AutoZone needs an affirmative council vote before it can break ground on the project, which was first proposed about 16 months ago.

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