Monday, July 21, 2014

Lower Macungie approves 3 million square feet of warehouses

Lower Macungie Township officials signed off tonight on plans to construct just under 3 million square feet of warehouses.

The plans by developer Liberty Property Trust call for the buildings to be developed on 225 acres in the western part of the township, near Spring Creek and Mertztown roads.

The project includes three warehouses which are 1.2 million, 1.1 million and 650,000 square feet in size, as well as a 10,000-square-foot office building, township planning director Sara Pandl said.

Township commissioners voted 5-0 tonight to approve the project. Construction is expected to begin as early as this year and could conclude by 2015, according to Bill Bumber, Liberty Property Trust's vice president of development.

Some residents of Lower Macungie Township and neighboring Alburtis spoke against the project, saying it belonged in an industrial park off a highway rather than miles from two-lane township roads.

"I don't think Lower Macungie Township has any idea how much their quality of life will change," said Rob Mihok, a 12-year township resident. "I just think the township will be changed forever and, in my opinion, not in a good way."

This is the first project proposed for about 700 acres of Jaindl Land Co. farmland due to a land-use deal previously reached between township commissioners and David Jaindl.

That deal, reached in 2010, allowed Jaindl to develop commercial, industrial and residential projects on the land, in exchange for his past agreement to withdraw a quarry project proposed on the site, township officials said.

Commissioner Ronald Beitler said he disagrees with that past land deal, but because it has already been approved he felt ethically obligated to vote in favor of the warehouse project.

"I wish to God there was a way to overturn this, but we can't," he said. "We're locked into it, not only now but for the next 20 years. That's why I'm going to vote yes."

Bumber said Liberty Property Trust is not the developer for any projects on the other Jaindl land outside the 225 acres within this project.

Jason Bartos, who lives on Franklin Street in Alburtis, said he already cannot sleep because tractor trailers driving or idling outside his house; those trucks are coming to and from an industrial park on Schoeneck Road.

"I don't think Lower Macungie understands the magnitude of the quality of life problems caused by their decisions," Bartos said.

Beitler said he had previously expressed concern about the impact of tractor-trailer traffic on Alburtis Road, and had asked if right-hand turns could be stopped altogether off Congdon Hill Road.

"The answer I've consistently gotten is no," he said.

Traffic and stormwater drainage concerns have previously been raised regarding the project, but township engineer William Erdman believes they have all been addressed.

Erdman said certificates of occupancy for the buildings will be not be issued until the developer gets sufficient highway occupancy and traffic permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Regarding stormwater drainage, he said the developer has proposed infiltration of all drainage to the site, far more than required by the township, to reduce discharge as much as possible.

"The impacts have been mitigated above and beyond to the extent possible," Erdman said

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