Northampton Press

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Logistics center definition still the issue

Wednesday, February 5, 2020 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in Local News

Hearing held for Rock Lehigh Valley appeal of East Allen zoning decision

Allen Township Fire Company was the venue for a Jan. 27 legal hearing by Rock Lehigh Valley, a subsidiary of the Rockefeller Group, in its appeal of a zoning decision for East Allen Township property zoned agricultural near the FedEx Ground warehouse.

East Allen Township Board of Supervisors rejected an application for a warehouse in 2018 after an extensive public hearing. The warehouse would require the township to change zoning on a parcel that borders Weaversville Road.

Rock Lehigh Valley appealed the decision. In July 2019, the company changed tactics and filed a curative amendment action.

Rock Lehigh Valley contends the use for the property is a logistics center, not a warehouse. Upon review of the zoning ordinances, there is no provision for a logistics center.

Under the Municipal Planning Code, the company is allowed to put the building anywhere in the township. The MPC was developed during the 1930s and requires each municipality to have a provision for every type of business.

Attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick, representing Rock Lehigh Valley, contended the township acted in bad faith by not allowing the logistics center.

Kimberly Freimuth, special counsel for the township, argued a logistics center is no more than a warehouse with an updated name.

In his explanation, Fitzpatrick said logistics centers are different because they provide a local location for online retail orders. He intimated they incorporate not only a place to store goods waiting to be delivered, but centralize brick-and-mortar retail locations for goods that residents need. Logistics centers replace malls and the traffic they bring, he said.

Rock Lehigh Valley contends the logistics center would not bring traffic into the township.

Area residents have a town hall meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at Catasauqua Middle School, 850 Pine St., to discuss truck traffic problems and formalize their demands. All residents impacted by truck traffic are invited to attend.

Rock Lehigh Valley’s selling point is the additional tax revenue — $265,000 for the township, $1 million for schools and $450,000 for the county.

The hearing ended with an assessment by Johanna Chervak, development manager for Rock Lehigh Valley. She noted the Lehigh Valley is a prime area for logistics growth. There is a demand for commercial property because of its proximity to airports, highways and population centers. Rock Lehigh Valley contends it offers the best, most effective use of the property.

The hearing will continue 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at Allen Township Fire Company, 3530 Howertown Road.