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Convenience store lights irritate neighbors |

Convenience store lights irritate neighbors

| Sunday, December 29, 2002 12:00 a.m

Joyce Keefer has seen the light from a neighboring Sheetz, but she’d rather be in the dark.

The Altoona-based chain last month opened one of its 272 convenience stores on property abutting Keefer’s, along the intersection of Route 68 and Meridian Road in Butler Township. Light from the store, which is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, is so bright, Keefer said, “you can read the newspaper in my bedroom at night with the lights off.”

A municipal ordinance stipulates that light from the store be confined to the commercially-zoned property, at the back of which stand several 22-foot towers which send light cascading down onto the parking lot.

Township Manager Gerry Patterson insists the plaza development — which eventually will include a bank — meets zoning requirements. A plan passed in July “would not have been approved if it did not meet the zoning,” Patterson said.

The store is wedged between several homes, including Keefer’s and John Kuciak’s immediately to the east. Asked what he thought about the store, Kuciak responded, “How would you feel?”

“I can’t even enjoy my Christmas lights. They are getting blown out by the Sheetz,” Keefer said.

Complaints about the ill effects of intrusive lighting are not new. The Tuscon, Ariz.-based International Dark-Sky Association lobbies against urban glow, urging the use of cut-off shields around fixtures to reduce glare and the spread of light onto adjoining properties. The association claims that more than $1 billion is spent annually on wasted light, or light that escapes upward into night skies.

“Without seeing the place, I can guess that (Sheetz) can do a much better job of lighting the area,” said Dave Crawford, the association’s executive director. “Imagine if the lighting was cut by a third — what kind of effect would it have• It would still be effective and safe. Everybody knows it’s there, so they don’t have to attract people like moths by using the light.”

Officials at the Sheetz corporate office did not respond to a phone message.

Lights aren’t the only sore spot for Keefer. Traffic, she says, also is a problem at the nearby intersection of Route 68 and Meridian and Benbrook roads.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation figures show that about 15,000 vehicles each day passed through the intersection before the development was complete.

Patterson said a turning lane was added to Route 68 westbound. A traffic study was done by the developer and confirmed by the township before the development was approved, he said.

Keefer also claims storm water from the site drains onto residential land.

But Patterson said, “everything was done in accordance with our ordinances.”

A smaller, locally owned shop once was on the commercially zoned plot. That shop, which closed in the early 1980s, was not open at late-night hours.

Patterson said he has not received any complaints about the two-business plaza, which eventually will include a branch of Farmers National Bank.

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