Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lower Macungie warehouse work to begin after agreement with Jaindl

By Patrick Lester
Of The Morning Call

The developer that plans to bring the first 3 million square feet of warehouses to Jaindl Land Co. property in Lower Macungie can begin construction before all previously required permits are issued under an agreement the township reached with Jaindl this week.

But township officials and Jaindl emphasized that no occupancy permits would be issued and no truck traffic would be going to and from those warehouses until various road improvements in that area are substantially completed.

Commissioners, following lengthy discussions between Jaindl representatives and township staff, approved the terms of the agreement last Thursday by a 4-1 vote, with Doug Brown casting the dissenting vote. Brown said he was reluctant to sign off on the agreement since he had seen the final version only a few hours before the meeting.

Under the agreement, Liberty Property Trust of Bethlehem can begin construction on long-planned warehouses on about 225 acres at the Spring Creek Properties development in the area of Spring Creek, Mertztown and Quarry roads while Jaindl pursues various permits from agencies that include state transportation and environmental departments. The project is part of the planned development of 600-plus acres allowed under a land use deal Jaindl struck with the township in 2010 after he proposed a quarry there.

The township, under the agreement reached last week, will get about 64 acres of previously designated preserve land for its greenway earlier than expected. Jaindl also has agreed to provide an easement on his land for a trail that connects to the township's trail system.

"In addition to the benefits that the township is getting out of this arrangement that go beyond the requirements, Mr. [David] Jaindl will post security well in advance with respect to roadway improvements," Jaindl attorney Joseph A. Zator II told commissioners.

Township officials said the most important component of the agreement is that Jaindl reiterated that no truck traffic would be generated at the site until roadway and traffic improvements are completed along the Spring Creek Road corridor.

Neighbors of the property and residents of nearby Macungie and Alburtis previously voiced concerns about the truck traffic the warehouses will generate once they're up and running.

Township Planning Director Sara Pandl said the discussions arose from a holdup in the acquisition of highway occupancy permits from the Department of Transportation for improvements on Spring Creek Road. A majority of those permits, which Jaindl agreed to obtain as part of his subdivision plan, have been secured.

Under the conditions of last year's land development approval for the warehouse project, all permits from agencies such as the state Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection were needed before the plan could be officially recorded at the Lehigh County Courthouse.

Liberty needed the plan recorded in order to obtain building permits from the township.

Because of the length of time it has taken to obtain those outside agency permits, Jaindl had requested that building permits be issued before the plan is recorded and while he continues working toward obtaining all of the necessary permits. Zator said that about 40 permits are needed for the project. Pandl said many of those permits already have been obtained.

She said the township "has worked really hard trying to find a way to allow them to make some progress while protecting the township's interest." Township officials all along have insisted that no truck traffic hit the road in that area until the traffic improvements are completed.

The Liberty warehouse plan was the first approved project on Jaindl land that was previously subdivided into 16 lots. Under an agreement with the township and following a legal battle over zoning changes the township granted for the land, Jaindl was allowed to develop warehouses, businesses and homes on land that was previously designated as an agricultural preservation area. Township commissioners said they agreed to the changes to avert the development of a quarry.

Liberty has not named tenants that will be moving into the warehouses. The company has proposed another 1 million square feet of warehouse space on the Jaindl land, a plan that would include 290 loading dock doors, a maintenance building and fuel island. That proposal, still before township planners, has not yet been approved.

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