NORTHAMPTON, Pa. - East Allen Township residents stood up and applauded after the township supervisors rejected a proposal by the Rockefeller Company to rezone an agricultural district to an industrial one to allow for possible warehouse construction.
The unanimous vote came after a more than three hour public hearing at Northampton Area High School on Wednesday in which residents repeatedly expressed concerns about increased truck traffic and noise associated with the potential warehouses.
The Rockefeller Group Development Corporation had requested that an ordinance changing the zoning classification of 155 acres of land on the southwest side of Weaversville Road in East Allen Township behind the Fedex Ground facility in Northampton County.
The land would have been converted from an Agricultural District to a Light/Industrial Business Park District.
Meeting attendees - all but two of whom voiced opposition to the proposed zoning change - had an opportunity to question Brian Harmon, a traffic engineer with the Pidcock Company.
Harmon said that all of the land currently classified as an industrial district have been fully developed, leading the company to request the zoning change to be able to find room to build the warehouse.
A new traffic impact study would be required to analyze the potential effects on traffic on nearby roads and whether a need would exist to effect any changes in access to Weaversville Road, Harmon said. A 2013 traffic impact study had been done predicting effects on traffic from the Fedex ground facility near the area, he said.
The company would improve several roads around the area partly in preparation for a potential new warehouse, Harmon said. This would include widening Willowbrook Road from two to four lanes, extending the area from Radar Drive to Race Street from two to five lanes and adding an additional southbound lane to Airport Road.
In response to a question from a resident, Harmon said that heavy truck traffic associated with the new warehouse would mostly go to Route 22, employee traffic would be dispersed throughout the region and customer delivery vehicles would mostly drive to Route 22.
A potential warehouse could increase traffic by 1,500 trucks a day, Harmon said.
Harmon said that the increased congestion would be lessened by a plan currently being developed that would widen Route 22 from four to six lanes. In response to a question about that project’s timeline, Harmon said that the plan would be a “multi-year project.”
Allen Township resident Richard Novak pointed out that road improvements such as an extension of Radar Drive have yet to be approved by any municipality. Both Allen Township and East Allen Township would need to approve that extension.
Toward the end of the hearing, residents were invited to make closing statements. Novak said that the Rockefeller Company had been “less than forthcoming” about the realities of the project and its effect on township residents. He voiced concern about the increased truck traffic and said that the company could not be sure exactly how many more trucks a day would pass through the township.
Novak urged supervisors to vote no, saying that there would be “no going back” if a rezoning were passed. Even if the company’s proposals for the warehouse would be shot down later, another developer could come forward with a proposal for a commercial development at any time, Novak said.
Zach Matsagl, one of two FedEx workers at the meeting who expressed support for the ordinance, said that the warehouse would “bring a lot of prosperity and economic growth” to the region and provide workers with good-paying jobs.
Township Supervisor Robert Mills said before the vote that the convenience afforded by companies such as Amazon for consumers “comes at a price” in the form of warehouses.
Mills said that the township was in a good position to attract warehouse development, with its being located near Philadelphia.
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