April 11, 2019 – Upper Nazareth Planning Commission Meeting
During the approval of the minutes from the last meeting, a spokesman from the citizen’s group representing Gun Club Road residents complained that their comments had not be recorded and therefore, didn’t adequately reflect what had happened on March 14th. Pam Berlew said that the Commission can’t officially discuss the project without the applicant present. Township solicitor, Gary Asteak, said that resident comments were made following adjournment and that adjournment is up to board members. He also loudly scolded the spokesman to let the chamber do their job or he risked removal.
The spokesman claimed that the submission by JVI Tadmoor was not given to the township on time and that he emailed the township 7 times about it and hadn’t received a response until 3 PM today. He requested that the presentation about the project on Gun Club Road be delayed. Asteak said that he’d reviewed the documents and determined that they met the technical requirements. Scott Sylvanius decided to let the presentation continue.
JVI Tadmoor Project
Representatives from the developer spoke about doing improvements to Gun Club Road, widening it to 24’ to help with traffic calming and storm water management. He spoke about adding a trail system for the township which of course has nothing to do with the construction of a trucking facility but seemed designed to serve as a consolation prize. Something else that came up later in the meeting – Norfolk Southern, the railroad company, does not want a trail near or over their railway lines.
As to the township’s other requests, the developer said it was not their responsibility to provide improvements to private property, or put curbs in on route 946—something the township had requested in a letter delivered on Tuesday. He also claimed the project would provide benefits to the township because this project is of such a large scale it will increase taxes to the school district and, “If we don’t build there, someone else will do it.” (Note: No one in attendance seemed impressed with these arguments.)
The developers made it clear they were very angry about a township letter they’d on Tuesday. (If you want to read it, you can file a Right-to-Know request.) The developer’s attorney (I’m assuming that’s who she was) informed the Commission that ordinances don’t require them to do any improvements to Gun Club Road and delivered an extended rant about the kind of enhancements the township requested. This was followed by an angry exchange between township engineer Sean Dooley and Nicole from JVI. Dooley claimed JVI was mis-characterizing his conversation about storm water and that he wanted to road to be 28 feet wide with curbing because anything less would destroy the pavement. Nicole accused Sean of repeatedly changing the width requirements and that he’d requested a 24 foot width. She said the company is willing to widen the road to 24 feet but without curbs—she claimed the existing swales would be good enough to contain the storm water.
JVI reported that they’ve submitted to the LVPC but haven’t gotten review comments. They have met with the Conservation District and have applied with the Army Core of engineers about encasing the stream but haven’t heard back yet.
LVPC would have to approve the decease of the speed limit on Gun Club Road from 35 to 25 mph. This would also require an ordinance from the township and this topic has been placed on the agenda for next week’s supervisor’s meeting.
The developer said there will be 150 trucks a day (10 trucks per hour) at the facility. He claimed they don’t know what the hours of operation will be. The height of the building will be 40 feet over the grading.
Asteak said that there will need to be discussions about the road width and curbing issues. Problems with storm water are complicated and may require an educational meeting. Other subjects which need to be addressed include noise, glare and nuisance issues.
Shawn Shupe, from Public Works, said a soft shoulder won’t work on Gun Club road. The lack of curbing will cause the road to break down. He also said that 24’ is too narrow for 2 trucks if they’re both 110 inches wide.
A resident expressed disgust with the posturing of the developer, acting like he was doing the township a favor with this project. Ten trucks per hour is not reasonable, he claimed and that regular asphalt does not hold up well under heavy traffic. Also Gun Club road is always wet and freezing will tear up the road. Warehouse communities see their taxes go up, not down and he encouraged the commission to work out a 20 year maintenance contract for road damage. There is NO benefit to the township from this project and, in fact, the ground they want to build on may be contaminated.
A second resident pointed out the empty warehouse at the intersection of routes 33 and 512 and wanted to know what would happen if the developer built the trucking facility and then couldn’t pay taxes?
Someone else express safety concerns from truck traffic and agreed with the Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure that the area doesn’t need any more warehouses.
Another citizen asked why the project was classified only sometimes as a High Cube (?) warehouse. The developer said that was for purposes for the traffic study.
There were more comments but 2 hours is my limit. If you’re wondering how the commissioners behaved during this, Scott Sylvanius and Pam Berlew regularly smiled at the developers with Berlew breaking into giggles several times. Stephen Bacak, Jay Benfield and Wilhelmina Donnelly remained serious. Citizens turned out in force, with a few having to stand due to lack of seats.
Becky Bartlett covers these meetings because citizens have a right to know what their government is doing.