PALMYRA TWP. (Wayne) - Harmony Presents’ future residence on Wellwood Avenue is in the planning stage. At a conditional use hearing at Palmyra Township in December, attorney Tony Waldron who is representing Henry Skier explained the purpose of the hearing was to determine if the venue would work in the planned location, because the township’s zoning oridnance allows performing arts theatres in C1 or RR districts. In this instance, most of the property is in the RR district, but there is a portion in the C1.
Mitchell Jacobs, an engineer from Kiley Associates said the “theatre” is planned to be on a 14-acre parcel with neighboring lands also owned by Skier. Access to the theatre is near Center Avenue, which at this time is a gravel road off of Rt. 6. A highway occupancy permit will be sought to be able to access the road.
The 150-seat theatre, Jacobs described as being “tucked into a slope” with “a few boulders in front.” There will be 50 designated parking spaces with an outdoor seating area to be used during the summer. All performances will occur within the facility.
The closest property line is about 162 feet Jacobs said, with the closet residential property being 280 feet. Hawley Municipal Aqua already serves the water and sewer, but Waldron said they have “indicated” they have the capacity and will accept the venue’s connection.
The lot of land, Jacobs described as being “heavily wooded” with plans to use the existing landscape so there is minimal “earth disturbance” regarding removal of trees, since an “intimate setting” is desired.
While 150 seats are planned, Waldron said it isn’t expected that will be Harmony Presents’ “regular activity.” Because there has been a pause in performances since moving out of the Boiler Room of the Hawley Silk Mill, Waldron anticipates it will take some time to attract people once the shows start again.
Jill Carletti, the managing director of Harmony Presents said the venue has hosted concerts and other performances since 2010 in the Boiler Room of the Silk Mill and now, the goal is for a “larger theatre.” In the Boiler Room, there was seating for 90 persons, and while there will be more seating now, the new location will remain “intimate” and “fitting for Wayne County.” The reasoning for the move now, is because more space is needed and Harmony Presents needs a space to “truly call our own home.” As well, since audiences have grown, having their own theatre, Carletti said that will offer more “flexibility” for various groups and artists.
Whether audiences are expected to be above 100-person each show, that Carletti said is hard to determine, but in the “entertainment business” expectations are kept at about a 60 percent max. She does expect there to be concerts with 100 plus at times.
From Settlers Hospitality Grant Genzlinger commended Harmony Presents by saying bringing entertainment to the area has been “very positive.” The space in the Boiler Room was “teeny weenie,” but he believes Harmony Presents is a “huge asset” for the community so he is a “firm supporter” of the planned theatre.
Woodland Avenue is a public road, but Waldron said it is not in “great shape” and so, while Hawley Borough and the township maintains parts of the road, if at some point the road were need to be closed, a gate could be placed if necessary.
As for traffic control, since it would be “unusual” for all of the cars in the parking lot to try to leave at once, Waldron said if the township wanted a person to control traffic “that could be done.”
With approval from PennDOT, zoning and land development still needed and it being winter, Waldron said the idea is to “break ground” in early to late spring if the approvals are received. Building would “ideally” happen in the fall. But, there is a “slight chance” it could start in the summer. It isn’t expected to be operating until the fall, which Waldron said is “very possible.”
From the planning commission Paul Natale said he was concerned with parking “overflow.” Waldron responded that requirements of the ordinance were “addressed.” But, there would be additional room if necessary in an area adjacent to the theatre for cars; or, if necessary cars could be lined up along the road.
Natale said he is, “all for this” but he does have “concerns.” He went on to question if there were to be an “overflow,” would Center Street be “wide enough” for parked cars or the passing of trucks. Also in the parking requirements, Natale said performers weren’t counted for.
Waldron responded that there’s 150 seats, or one per four seats so if another 10 people were added and 50 parking spaces are being proposed, the requirements are met with “adequate parking.” If the township feels more spaces are needed, there is room.
James Dough questioned if the theatre were to “fail” would a tax-exempt be filed. Waldron responded that, knowing the owner and the family’s plans for the facility since no one “lives forever,” what Dough asked simply is “not possible.” Then again, he said, “anything is possible.” That “worse case scenario,” Waldron said is “almost certainly not going to happen.” But just the idea that it could happen is not the “grounds to turn down a zoning request quite frankly.”
As for refreshments, there will not be a commercial kitchen to provide food to the public for sale. There will be a small kitchen for performers who need to eat. Liquor will not be served or for sale. There may be soda and chips for catered events where the public wouldn’t be invited.
Hours of operation for concerts are generally over by 10:00 p.m. and activity doesn’t typically begin until 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. with tickets sold online.
Carletti said through Harmony Presents, she has seen “positive outcomes” by having “something cultural to do” in the community throughout the year. There was a point where Harmony Presents was the top event to attend in the Poconos through Trip Advisor. Once the theatre opens, Carletti said she doesn’t expect daytime activity in the beginning. Within a year, however, she hopes to have programming during the day, even during the week.
What Harmony Presents offers, Carletti said is “great music and great entertainment” which “makes life a little better.”
The board of supervisors didn’t approve the conditional use at the meeting that followed the hearing, because they wanted to tour the land.