COAL TOWNSHIP — The Coal Township Zoning Hearing Board approved requested exemptions Wednesday night, clearing the way for discount grocery retailer Aldi to construct a store next to the Plaza at Coal Township.
Board members John Wachter, Ronald Manney and Pete Bednar unanimously agreed to reduce the number of required parking spaces to 96, allow for 76 percent impervious paving on the lot and permit the erection of a sign close to the property boundary.
Rory Garr, a director of real estate for Aldi, and Sudath Alvis, of APD Engineering, attended on behalf of the Illinois-based retailer. The store will be part of a distribution center in Center Valley, Pennsylvania.
Garr told the zoning hearing board the retailer would like sitework to begin as soon as possible, with construction on the store anticipated to start next summer. If no major delays occur, he expected the store to open in late 2018 or early 2019.
Alvis said the store will be 22,245 square feet, which is slightly larger than the Shamokin Dam Aldi. That location was recently remodeled and expanded, and the new Coal Township store will have a similar look, Garr said.
The designs for new Aldi stores include energy-efficient features like LED lights, as well as a modern appearance. The Coal Township store will have an expanded refrigeration section, with specialty items like gluten-free products, Garr said.
The Aldi will be built directly to the west of the Plaza at Coal Township, part of a subdivision of the current land. Alvis said the total property is more than 100 acres and includes plans for swamp or pond areas, which board members factored in when deciding to permit a greater-than-usual impervious surface.
The 96 parking spaces were built into the design based on a study of parking space usage Aldi stores, Alvis said. That number is double what the expected maximum usage is, he said.
“The customers who come into Aldi have a pretty quick turnaround because of the size of the store,” he said.
“Parking is land and we want to make sure we’re not egregiously building space just to build it,” Garr added.
Garr said the location for the new store was selected as part of a rapid expansion plan by Aldi based on its proximity to other stores. He said the site is about halfway between Shamokin Dam and the next closest locations, Hazleton and Pottsville. The location along Route 61 is also idea, he said.
“It’s a highly trafficked road,” he said. “It fills a void in the marketplace.”