Northampton Press

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Warehouse hearing is tentative

Wednesday, July 17, 2019 by Paul Cmil Special to The Press in Local News

At the East Allen Township Board of Supervisors workshop meeting July 10, Solicitor Joseph Piperato addressed the agenda item for the Rock-Lehigh Valley LLC hearing scheduled for July 29.

The hearing is a legal challenge by Rockefeller Development to change the board of supervisors’ ruling on a zoning change. Rock-Lehigh Valley is a subsidiary of Rockefeller.

Two years ago, after a number of public hearings, the board ruled against a zoning change request to allow Rockefeller to build a warehouse on land zoned for agricultural use. Rockefeller appealed the ruling but failed to make a presentation in court. The developer dropped the appeal last year.

However, Rockefeller came back with a new legal approach to overturn the decision. The Municipal Planning Code requires that every municipality provide zoning for every possible land use. This current legal action is because Rockefeller is not proposing to build a warehouse, but rather a logistics center. Nothing in the township’s zoning code addresses a logistics center.

As Piperato explained, the curative amendment requested by Rockefeller is not a lawsuit but is more similar to an explanation of defect. In this causative case, supervisors are the judges to determine if a warehouse and a logistics center are different entities and need to be addressed separately. A ruling could be appealed, so it is necessary for the supervisors to display neutrality or the ruling could be reversed because the judges displayed bias.

But like a lawsuit, it will be costly.

Piperato indicated the hearing would most likely be delayed to September. No one is quite ready. Anticipate that the hearing will be held in a public venue with sufficient space to hold a bevy of interested parties. The hearing date will be formally announced as soon as it is confirmed.

The zoning hearing board delayed two critical zoning requests until a meeting that was to be held July 16. The delay is triggered by vacancies on the board after Ben Koppenhaver resigned. The resignation, coupled with a conflict of interest issue, has caused some concern that the zoning hearing board may have lacked a quorum at that July 16 meeting.

The first request is for PDW Properties for a variance to allow it to build an apartment building behind a proposed office complex. The property in question is the miniature golf course and driving range on Airport Road. The property behind the miniature golf course is zoned agricultural. Zoning would need to be changed to allow high-density apartments.

The second hearing is for Airport Road Partners LLC, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania Venture Capital. The company wants to put a neighborhood convenience store similar to the Turkey Hill on Route 512 at its property on Hanoverville Road and Airport Road. The proposed convenience store will dispense gas. Zoning does not allow a gas station.