Northampton Press

Friday, September 20, 2019

East Allen Twp. joins regional planning effort

Wednesday, September 4, 2019 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in Local News

East Allen Township Board of Supervisors took a risk at its meeting Aug. 22 and backed joining a proposed regional comprehensive planning group that includes Hanover Township (Lehigh County) and North Catasauqua and Catasauqua boroughs. The River Central Comprehensive Plan would combine the municipalities and allow them to work together for future planning.

Most municipalities must follow the Municipal Planning Code set by the state. Under the MPC provisions, every conceivable business must have a defined location in a municipality.

Regional planning gives municipalities more latitude where businesses are located. For businesses that have limited appeal, a location in one area can satisfy the MPC requirements for all the municipalities in the regional planning consortium.

The township already completed its required comprehensive planning at a substantial cost. The new effort will cost another $20,000.

How might it benefit East Allen Township? The Rockefeller Group, upset with the negative decision by the board of supervisors to rezone agricultural land for commercial use, claims the township has not identified logistics distribution centers in the MPC. Rockefeller is arguing that logistics distribution centers are different from warehouses. Taking the argument to court can cost tax payers six-figure legal bills.

Under the multimunicipal comprehensive plan, logistics distribution centers can be located in Hanover Township — where they already exist — and East Allen Township can preserve the landscape and qualities it desires.

The legal action by Rockefeller Group regarding the logistics distribution center zoning challenge is delayed until January 2020.

In other business, Imperial Realty Property Group asked to delay its conditional use hearing until Aug. 30. The company owns commercial property at Franks Corner, the intersection of Routes 329 and 987. The owners proposed maintaining an existing strip mall and two outlying parcels.

They are removing smaller offices and replacing the scattered site buildings with a single larger warehouse. The change is permitted under zoning, but the township wants to set specific conditions that must be met.

Once the general conditions are agreed to, the owners must go through the detailed land development process. This process will provide opportunities for input from supervisors and residents.

Imperial Realty is requesting the change, in part, because existing wastewater treatment systems are failing.

The township is looking for opportunities to control present and future truck traffic. One point of discussion is the availability of truck stops. Truck stops have largely closed, which has drivers congregating on local streets while waiting for openings to make deliveries. Supervisors want to see requirements for drivers built into warehouse developments and into regional planning.

UGI is looking to extend natural gas service to customers around the Country Place development. Representatives will be in the area to gauge interest from residents.

Keystone Cement has sent surveys to residents. The data collected will be instrumental in the company’s decision to dig farther down into its stone quarry. Supervisors expressed concerns that the expansion might damage existing wells and soil stability. They are watching the situation closely.