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Township Board Zooms Through Dialysis Center Approval

Township Zooms Through Dialysis Center Approval

Orange arrows show the direction of utility services for the future Fresenius Medical Care dialysis center at East High Street and North Pleasant View Road.

SANATOGA PA – A building permit for renovations in the former Rite Aid Pharmacy at 2217 E. High St., which will allow it to be transformed into a 21-unit kidney dialysis center, could be in the hands of developers next week as a result of action Thursday night (July 25, 2013) by the Lower Pottsgrove Township Board of Commissioners.

In what an engineer representing Rochester NY-based Choice One Development LLC called “the world’s fastest turn-around,” commissioners gave their unanimous blessing to added sewage capacity at the facility, which in turn clears the way for promised similarly prompt approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). It also must sign off on the sewage use.

The approval process, which normally takes six months, was finished in 32 days. That’s due primarily to urgency placed on the project by commissioners, township staff members, township engineers Bursich Associates, and county and state officials, the engineer said. Township Manager Rodney Hawthorne echoed the sentiment: “we’ve been really pushing this forward with the DEP,” he said.

The dialysis center will occupy the long-vacant retail store that sits prominently at the northwest corner of East High Street and North Pleasant View Road, the westbound gateway to the Sanatoga village business district. The developer plans to have its contractors start work as soon as the permit is in hand, possibly by Tuesday or Wednesday (July 30-31).

Local government officials of all stripes fast-tracked Choice One’s plans to create the dialysis facility for owner Fresenius Medical Care, which promotes itself as “the world’s largest integrated provider of products and services for individuals undergoing dialysis because of chronic kidney failure.” They publicly worried that, had approvals taken too long to obtain, Choice One might have selected an alternative site.

“They’re bringing in good, high-paying jobs,” Hawthorne said of Fresenius, “and their operation fits perfectly with the professional image we want to present for the village,” board President Jonathan Spadt added.

Fresenius currently also operates a dialysis center in adjacent Limerick Township.

The board action was preceded by a Wednesday meeting with DEP that Hawthorne characterized as “really good” and “very productive.” It involved representatives from every party in the project, “and sold DEP that this was the right thing to do now,” he added.

The township has for years been regulated by state-imposed limits on the volume of sewage it can send to Pottstown’s treatment plan for processing. Storm water and unauthorized connections were earlier found to have added thousands of gallons of water to Lower Pottsgrove’s treatment stream, which the DEP forbids. The township has almost finished its extensive repairs to the system, but remains under department supervision.

Fresenius’ operations will result in annual sewage volume equal to 29 single family homes or  (equivalent dwelling units), three of which were already assigned to Rite Aid. Twenty-six new EDUs of 305 currently available to the township were allocated to it last month by the township Sewer Authority. The huge volume of added sewage required DEP approval before the building permit could be issued.

Commissioners were so focused on speeding the permit’s delivery that they handled the project as the first item of their meeting agenda, and after their vote spent 15 minutes casually talking as all those involved individually signed five separate copies of the approved document known as the “sewer planning module.”

Although crews could not begin construction without the permit, visitors to the property could clearly see workers had been busy gutting the inside of the building. Also, the layout of potential utility lines were sprayed in bright orange paint on the surrounding parking lot, and two trailer-sized debris haulers were parked at the rear of the building.

Ready to remove debris at the rear of the building

Ready to remove debris at the rear of the building

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ July 25 meeting):

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