School board hears Jaindl development presentation
The development is in the details.
David Jaindl, president and owner of Jaindl Land Company and representative of the Jaindl-Watson commercial development proposed at Route 329 and Seemsville Road in Allen Township, presented details of the project at the Northampton Area School District Board of Education meeting Feb. 12.
The meeting was held in the Northampton Area High School cafeteria, rather than the NASD Administration Building meeting room, to accommodate about 100 persons, many of whom attended to laud students honored as 2018 SkillsUSA District 11 competition winners in a presentation led by Kimberly Levin, NAHS assistant principal.
There were details aplenty for the approximately 50 persons who stayed for the Jaindl-Watson presentation about a plan to be presented to Allen Township Planning Commission for six buildings of 2.4 million square feet in warehouse and/or manufacturing space on 294 acres zoned for industrial/commercial use.
The big reveal at the school board meeting was displayed on a map that was projected on eight TV screens — relocation of Seemsville Road, which would require Jaindl-Watson to purchase 9.5 acres of the NASD’s approximate 99-acre Seemsville tract, a longtime school site. Jaindl-Watson seeks a right-of-way easement for the relocated Seemsville Road, which would curve to a new terminus and a new traffic light at Route 329. A water retention pond, which would not be maintained by NASD, would be built on a portion of the land roughly between the new road and where Seemsville Road is now located.
After the meeting, Jaindl said construction of the project could begin six to eight months after approval by Allen Township’s planners and board of supervisors.
The Jaindl-Watson project could generate $2 million in increased property tax revenue for NASD, according to one of the presenters at the meeting. Relocation of Seemsville Road, building a retention pond and constructing access road entrances could save NASD site-preparation money if a new elementary school is built on the district land.
The NASD administration has said increased student enrollment at district elementary schools might require a new elementary school in five to 10 years.
High-voltage PPL electricity transmission lines that traverse the portion of the land where the retention pond would be built make that area unsuitable for development.
About 9.5 acres of district land includes 3.25 acres for a right of way for the relocated Seemsville Road and 6.25 acres for an easement for the stormwater retention pond.
“We wanted to make sure we mitigated our traffic with possible school district traffic,” said AnnMarie Vigilante, PE, senior associate/vice president, Langan, Doylestown, a land development engineering and environmental consulting firm.
Vigilante said a relocated Seemsville Road would eliminate sight problems, uneven road surfaces, grading problems, move the road away from existing residences, include three traffic lanes, widen the shoulder from two feet to five feet and place a traffic light at the Route 329 intersection that would be coordinated with other traffic lights on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation-maintained highway.
A new curved Seemsville Road is intended to “calm” traffic.
“Seemsville (Road) now is a straight shot. It will slow traffic down,” Vigilante said.
A deed restriction on the district land limits its use to educational purposes.
“I don’t think that this, from the outset, would be a violation,” said Atty. Erich J. Schock, shareholder and chair of Real Estate, Land Use & Development Group, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, P.C., Upper Saucon Township.
“The school district would be able to review any plans. The school district would know what to expect,” Schock said.
“The school district will see a significant increase in property tax revenue,” said Lee Huang, MPA, senior vice president and principal, Econsult Solutions, Philadelphia, an economic consulting services firm.
Huang said NASD would see an increase of $2 million annually in tax revenue generated by the Jaindl-Watson project.
The Jaindl-Watson project improvements to the district land would add another $3.5 million that NASD would not have to spend, according to Huang.
Huang added the Jaindl-Watson project would create an estimated 609 jobs, of which 576 would be full time.
School Directors Chuck Longacre and Robert Mentzell and Vice President Chuck Frantz questioned the project’s traffic impact, amount of acreage required from the district tract and retention-pond maintenance responsibility.
The 30-minute Jaindl-Watson presentation was followed by about 30 minutes of questions. Among the attendees were members of Citizens for Accountability & Responsible Development in East Allen Township.
Madelyn Kemp, a former NASD school director, asked about truck traffic, estimated by Vigilante at 780 trucks daily.
“If there’s a school bus there, safety would be my concern, and I don’t know how backed up we’d be,” Kemp said.
Mark Saginario, Bath Borough Council president, also voiced concern about traffic generated by the Jaindl-Watson warehouses.
“Between 3 and 5 p.m. now, the entire borough is gridlocked,” Saginario said.
The amount of money Jaindl-Watson would compensate NASD for use of the district land is to be negotiated.
“Just like a land transfer, there’s a value connected to it. The school district would be paid a consideration,” said C. Steven Miller, NASD solicitor.
Miller added of the proposed site work by Jaindl-Watson, if the district would build a school there, “The school district is going to have to do the same type of improving roads, install a retention pond and install traffic lights.”
Additionally, Miller said, regarding the district property’s deed covenant, “Improving the proponents is totally consistent with the educational use. One of the things we’re going to do is get an opinion from the [Pennsylvania] General Services Administration that this is consistent.”
Regarding location of warehouses near a school site, Miller said, “It’s one of those situations. The Jaindl-Watson property is zoned for their use. The school property is zoned for its use. We didn’t zone in the fact that a warehouse can be next to a school.”