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Part of Union Street in downtown Middletown to be closed to traffic for re-paving from July 19-22

roadpavingPress And Journal Photo by Dan Miller -- This section of Union Street from Spring to Brown streets will be closed to traffic for re-paving from 6 a.m. July 19 to 6 p.m. July 22.

Union Street from Spring to Brown streets in Middletown will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. Tuesday July 19 until 6 p.m. Friday July 22 so that the road can be re-paved, Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter has announced.

Starting 6 p.m. Monday July 18 parking will be banned on both sides of Union from Spring to Brown streets. The ban is going into effect Monday evening so that all vehicles will be off the road in time for the re-paving to start first thing Tuesday, Klinepeter said.

Temporary no-parking signs will be put up to mark the impacted area. Free parking will be available in the lot behind the Municipal Building at 60 W. Emaus St.

The milling and re-paving of Union from Spring to Brown streets will be done by Flyway Excavating of Lititz, the general contractor for the Middletown downtown streetscape project.   

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 July 2016 11:28

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Grenade that turned out to be harmless prompts evacuation of Interfaith Apartments

grenadeSubmitted Photo -- This is the grenade that was found in an Interfaith Apartment unit.

Interfaith Apartments on Mill Street in Middletown was evacuated Tuesday night July 12 after a grenade was found in one of the apartments.

The grenade was determined to be an inert training device and was safely disposed of by a bomb squad with the Pennsylvania State Police, Middletown Police Chief John Bey told the Press And Journal.

MtownInterfaithApartmentsThe grenade was found in a can of Pringles potato chips that had been left in the apartment of a former Interfaith resident who had recently moved out and is now under hospice care.

The device, referred to as a "Pineapple Grenade" in a borough police report, was found in the can by an Interfaith maintenance man cleaning out the apartment who immediately called 9-1-1. Borough police were dispatched at 8:26 p.m. Tuesday and arrived at the scene at 8:28 p.m.

A photo of the grenade taken by borough police was sent to state police, who responded with their bomb squad.

Police also evacuated the eight-story apartment building and blocked off traffic access to the surrounding area.

A staging area for the residents was set up in the Amtrak park and ride lot across Mill Street. The Moose Club next to the lot was also opened up by two club employees who were working late. Residents were invited to go into the club if they needed to sit down or to get some water. Some residents went into the club while others preferred to wait outside, police said.

The grenade was described as being made of metal, with a bluish top and a pin through the handle. Bey said the device was found to be inert - not capable of exploding - and had likely been a training prop that the man living in the apartment had collected as a souvenir.

Police do not know how or when the man came to be in possession of the grenade, or how long it had been in the apartment, Bey said.

A follow-up search of the apartment during the incident by a bomb-detecting dog provided by Harrisburg Police uncovered cartridges and shotgun shells in the closet. These were determined not to be a hazard, police said.

Five borough police officers, including Bey, were involved in the incident and were assisted by borough fire and emergency personnel.

Besides the state police bomb squad and Harrisburg police, Middletown police were also assisted at the scene by police from Steelton, Highspire, Lower Swatara Twp. and Penn State Harrisburg.

Police remained at the scene until 11:28 p.m. The grenade was taken away by state police and Bey said he does not know what they will do with it.

"I'm sure they have a whole stash of those things," Bey said of the state police bomb squad.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 July 2016 13:36

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North Union plans call for stores, hotel, eatery

ZoningSignN Union WEBPress And Journal photo by Eric Wise — One homeowner on North Union Street in Lower Swatara Twp. erected a sign in opposition to rezoning the Dickerson property at Route 283 and North Union Street. Dickerson and other property owners have applied for a variance that would allow commercial use of the property, now zoned for residential.  

A revised plan for development of 15 acres along North Union Street in Lower Swatara Township calls for a restaurant, office building, several stores and a 79-room hotel on the southern edge of Route 283.

Lee Dickerson will bring his quest to sell the remnants of what he says is his family's five-generation farm along Route 283 to the Lower Swatara zoning hearing board July 14. His application for two variances was revised since June, when the hearing was continued because some property owners dropped out of the process.

The land is zoned residential-suburban. Dickerson requested a variance to allow commercial development of the 15.55-acre site on North Union Street from the Route 283 ramp to the private road Condran Drive.

The revised application shows a conceptual plan for the site, with a sit-down restaurant and a retail store along North Union Street, on the southern edge of Route 283. Traffic would enter using a new private road, Lee Drive, to reach these buildings and a second retail store behind the first. Dickerson Street would then lead to an office building and a 79-room hotel as the property stretches toward Swatara Creek along the highway. The application proposes razing eight homes, half of which Dickerson said are vacant, dilapidated and uninhabited. To develop the site for commercial use, Dickerson plans to bring water and sewer lines to the area.

He is seeking a second variance that would allow more than 30 percent of the site to be covered with impervious surfaces, areas that do not absorb water, such as parking lots. Tom Luttrell, a consultant who has worked with Dickerson during the process, said the lack of public sewer and water lines in the area has caused problems for many properties with contaminated wells and failing septic systems.

“They are desperate to sell, but can’t sell because of the sewer and water problem,” Luttrell said. “We have people who are absolutely desperate to sell.”

Problems with water and sewer for these homes have developed over the decades since they were built, and these issues have now placed owners in a bind, as they never expected this type of hardship in selling their homes, Luttrell said.

“I think it’s unconscionable how (the commissioners) ignored these people’s problems,” Luttrell said. “They should be bringing water and sewer there.”

Dickerson began this process by applying to the township for a zoning change in the fall of 2015. The planning commission discussed the proposal, which Dickerson then withdrew and resubmitted with changes. The planning commission considered the revised proposal and voted 3-1 in December to recommend the commissioners approve it. The township commissioners did not take any action, and state law sets no requirement for when they have to act on a recommendation from the planning commission.

Dickerson said during the planning commission process that commercial development was the best way to get water and sewer lines to that part of the township. Homeowners would have to pay a tapping fee of $3,200 under the Lower Swatara Municipal Authority’s current rates once the lines reach the area.

Chris DeHart, a planning commissioner and former fire chief for the township, said in December that he supported the proposal for commercial development because adding water to the area would protect public safety by having water available for firefighters. “It seems the board is against any rezoning,” Luttrell said.

Following a lack of action, Dickerson withdrew the application and applied for the zoning variances instead.

More than 30 members of the public attended the June 9 zoning hearing during which the board accepted a request from David Tschudy, Dickerson's attorney, to continue the hearing for one month.

As the application progressed through the planning commission in 2015, some residents questioned the need for commercial development in a residential neighborhood and bemoaned the potential increase in traffic along North Union Street. Others agreed for the need for water and sewer in the area, and the desire to improve the area by removing blight.

The township was beginning its review of the comprehensive land use plan last fall when Dickerson applied for the zoning change. A steering committee appointed by the township commissioners completed its review and made recommendations for zoning changes June 20. In this draft proposal, now before the township’s planning commission, the Dickerson property would become zoned for commercial use, said Anne Shambaugh, township manager.

The land past the hotel close to Swatara Creek eventually could become a ball field, hiking trail or park for the township, Luttrell said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 15:47

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Another council member quits

Middletown Borough Council has yet another vacant seat to fill – before council has had a chance to fill the seat that was just vacated by Robert Louer Sr.

Ed Shull had only been on council representing the Third Ward since Jan. 19, when he was chosen to fill the seat vacated by Vicki Malone, who resigned in September 2015.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 15:29

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