County officials: Old Fort Road Sheetz on track for approval

Plans for construction of a new Sheetz gas station and convenience store on Old Fort Road in Potter Township could receive final approval as early as next month, according to county planning officials.

Sheetz had attempted to open a location at the Old Fort intersection near Centre Hall, but that effort was blocked by a 2009 lawsuit brought by J.J. Powell Inc., which operates a Snappy’s convenience store on leased land across Route 144.

A Centre County Court of Common Pleas judge rejected that lawsuit in April 2012, and a state Superior Court decision in May upheld the lower court’s ruling, clearing the way for the proposed Sheetz.

Centre County planners said plans for the Sheetz were submitted shortly after the Superior Court ruling.

The Centre County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding for Phase 1 of the development project.

County Planning and Community Development Director Bob Jacobs said the memorandum was necessary for Sheetz to proceed with preliminary engineering and plans for the project.

Jacobs said the county Planning Commission is reviewing Sheetz request, and could give it final approval as early as next month.

Officials with Sheetz could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

Potter Township Zoning Officer Jeff McClellan said he had not reviewed the plans and could not comment Tuesday.

In its 2009 lawsuit, J.J. Powell argued the sale of the land to Sheetz violated a covenant in the least between J.J. Powell and the Smith-Pletcher Home Association, which owns all four corners of the Old Fort intersection.

J.J. Powell argued a 2009 deal for Sheetz to buy a retail condominium unit from developer Bob Poole — who had divided a 3.6-acre corner parcel purchased from the Smith-Pletcher Home Association two years earlier into three lots — amounted to a lease.

Under the J.J. Powell lease covenant that runs until 2023, the former Smith-Pletcher Home Association parcel cannot be leased for a competing convenience store.

But the state Superior Court said J.J. Powell failed to make a convincing case that the Sheetz deal violated the covenant.