Two contentious building projects are closer to breaking ground after their development plans were approved on Tuesday night by Harrisburg City Council.
City Council approved the land use plans for both a medical marijuana dispensary on Allison Hill and an AutoZone store in Uptown Harrisburg.
The dispensary generated the most criticism by council members, who passed the building plan by a slim 4-3 margin, with council members Ausha Green, Danielle Bowers and Shamaine Daniels voting against it.
Members who voted in favor stressed they did so not because they support the dispensary at 137 S. 17th St., but because the building plan itself met all city requirements, which was the issue at stake.
“The project is in compliance with all the city laws and regulations,” said Councilman Dave Madsen.
A company called WH RE LLC plans to build a 3,000-square-foot medical marijuana retail store directly across the street from Hamilton Health Center on what now is an empty lot.
About a year ago, the state Department of Health awarded a dispensary license to Local Dispensaries, a related company. City Council has no authority over licensing but had to approve the land use plan for the building.
Following the meeting, Green said that she voted against the plan to “send a message” that she was unhappy with a process that, she said, didn’t include neighborhood residents or take their concerns into account.
“I would like to see more community input even before the application gets to the state,” she said.
With the approval, WH RE LLC hopes to break ground on the facility in spring and estimates a four-month-long construction process, opening next autumn.
“I’m hoping the company will be good neighbors to the residents in the Allison Hill area,” said Bowers.
On Tuesday, council also approved the land development plan for AutoZone, a Memphis-based auto parts chain, to construct a new retail store at the corner of Maclay and N. 7th streets.
Some council members, as well as the city Planning Bureau, had objected to AutoZone’s original proposal for an access point off of N. 7th Street, saying it would create safety issues.
Since a hearing on the project two weeks ago, AutoZone had agreed to eliminate that driveway, leaving two others—one off of Maclay Street and the other from Peffer Street, Madsen said.
“We had multiple discussions regarding this resolution with the applicant,” he said.
Before it can break ground, AutoZone needs to return to council to have several streets vacated on the four-parcel, 1.13-acre site.
AutoZone made its original proposal to locate on the property, now owned by the Vartan Group, about 16 months ago. It is proposing a $935,280 project consisting of a 6,816-square-foot store and 37 off-street parking spaces.