Sheetz proposed on Rt. 378 in the township of Lower Saucon

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A bank branch in the parking lot of the Saucon Valley Square shopping center could be demolished to make way for the area’s newest Sheetz. The Altoona-based convenience store chain is proposing to build a 6,390-square-foot convenience store gas station on the site located in the Saucon Valley Square parking lot at Rt. 378 in the community of Lower Saucon. Community planners heard details of the proposal at their Thursday night meeting.

Just a day after members of the Bethlehem Hearings Committee approved a plan by Sheetz to build a combination supermarket and gas station on the south side of town, Lower Saucon Township officials took their turn from a proposal for a Sheetz on the Saucon Hear Valley Square Mall on Rt. 378.

The proposed 6,390 square foot store would be surrounded by six two-sided gas pumps under a canopy and would be built on the north side of the mall’s driveway where a Fulton Bank branch and part of the parking lot currently reside.

Steven Lyncha, Sheetz Engineering/Permissions project manager, said the bank branch will be demolished as part of the redevelopment of the site if plans are finally approved.

Like the Sheetz proposed at E. Fourth Street in South Bethlehem, the Sheetz in Lower Saucon Township, if built, would include a drive-through, which Lyncha told the planners is unlikely to be as busy as it is the drive-throughs of fast food restaurants usually are.

He said that according to data compiled by the company, 10 percent or less of sales are generated by drive-thru customers in the more than 100 stores they currently have. That means even during peak hours there are rarely more than two cars waiting or “stacked up” at a time, he added.

Building the Sheetz would remove about 100 spaces from the mall’s parking lot, freeing up about 700 spaces for other businesses.

Sheetz mall proposal from the air

A portion of an aerial view of the Saucon Valley Square shopping center showing the area where a proposed Sheetz gas station/grocery store would be built. A bank branch and around 100 parking spaces are currently located on the approximately 2-hectare site – outlined in black. (Source: Sheetz Inc./Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. plan sketch)

Planning Commission counsel Linc Treadwell commented that the Saucon Valley Square shopping center was “built over in car parks” when it was built in the 1990s.

In recent years, some units of the mall have stood vacant, including the anchor unit that previously housed the Revolutions bowling, dining and entertainment center.

Lyncha said the mall’s entrance can handle heavy traffic because of the traffic light at its intersection with Rt. 378, so there should be no problems with traffic in or out of the driveway if the current plans are approved.

Treadwell asked if there was potential leeway in making decisions about the architecture and color scheme for the new store, but Lyncha said they typically don’t have leeway.

He added that, unlike a previous style, newer stores have a “truss roof.”

The newer architecture “I think looks a lot nicer,” Lyncha said.

All lighting in the store would be LED, lighting down to avoid glare, he said, and it would likely be a freestanding Sheetz sign near Rt. 378.

The store would be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, he confirmed.

One issue raised by the community’s residents concerns the karst geology beneath the site of the proposed gas station, which would be built using underground fuel tanks.

However, Lyncha said the company has built other service stations with underground storage tanks in geologically similar areas with no problem.

The planning commission’s vice-chairman, Hazem Hijazi, asked him if building above-ground storage tanks was an option.

Lyncha said the occurrence of such tanks and the fact that they would require secondary containment is why Sheetz prefers using underground tanks.

Planning commission chairman John Noble said he agreed with the overall concept of the proposal but expressed concern about stormwater containment. primarily, he said, because of the mall’s location uphill from the nearby Black River.


A Sheetz is proposed for Saucon Valley Square Shopping Center on Rt. 378 in the parish of Lower Saucon. Pictured above is the sign outside Sheetz on Schoenersville Road in Bethlehem, one of several stores in the area.

In response to another question from the commission, Lyncha said the company plans to obtain a liquor license to store beer at Rt. 378; something that has become common practice by convenience store chains, including one major competitor.

Two nearby Rt. 378 gas stations — Exxon and Speedway — have smaller convenience stores attached that could be affected by competition, as could a local beer retailer at the mall, the commissioners noted.

In order to sell alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania, the state liquor law requires that convenience and grocery stores sell groceries and have indoor seating areas. Lyncha said the Lower Saucon Sheetz would have both indoor and outdoor seating areas.

When asked about the company’s timeline for building the store, Lyncha said he’s generally happy to say their timeline is “as soon as possible.”

However, when Saucon Source asked for more specific information on the post-meeting schedule, he declined to comment.

A sketch plan for the proposed Sheetz, prepared by a local engineering firm, can be found on pages 91-94 of the supporting documents accompanying the agenda for Thursday’s online meeting and identifies the approximately 2-acre portion of the property upon which it would be built. what Lyncha said already has the necessary utilities in place.

Other Sheetz gas station stores in the area are in Bethlehem, Whitehall, Upper Macungie Township and Palmer Township where two stores are located.

The Altoona-based company currently operates approximately 670 stores throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio.

Next to where the Lower Saucon Township Sheetz would be built, a Mexican restaurant chain – Plaza Azteca – is planning to open an eatery in a former sports pub.

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