The plan to build two warehouses on the site of the Southmoore Golf course was assailed Thursday by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission as a threat to Moore Township and its neighbors.
"It is the very definition of poor development," said LVPC Executive Director Becky Bradley.
Moore residents agree, but the township cannot stop the project and the LVPC comments are only recommendations. The golf course on the west side of Route 512 is on land zoned for industry.
Moore's board of supervisors recently approved new limits on warehouses, but those do not apply to the Southmoore plan, which was submitted before the vote.
Developer Waters Edge LLC of Wind Gap plans to build one warehouse of 347,750 square feet, and a second of 140,000 square feet between Route 512 and Jones Road. The development will be called The Southmoore Business Center.
"This project diminishes the quality of life for that community and the residents surrounding it," Chairman Greg Zebrowski said.
Bradley said the warehouses will be more than six miles from the nearest Route 22 interchange, and nine miles from the closest access to Route 33.
Zebrowski said the Southmoore plan is an example of "scavenging" land that is not near highways, putting a burden on small towns and ruining a suburban tradition: residents will be "smelling diesel fumes while they're trying to roast their hotdogs and hamburgers."
Bradley said the plan is bad now and its future is bleak, too. With no public sewer or water connection, the buildings are not suitable for future use as manufacturing, but just for low-paying, easily automated jobs. Traffic in historic Bath and Nazareth will increase, and property values will fall.
"The last thing we need is more trucks on (Route) 512," Commissioner John McGorry said.
Not much can be done about that.
"If we send these recommendations over, what's to say that they have to implement them?" asked Commissioner William McGee.
Bradley said the township will consider the commission's recommendations as it negotiates the site-development process with Waters Edge, but the big issue is settled. The warehouses cannot be blocked.
"It's zoned for this industrial use, even though it doesn't make sense," she said. "They're sort of stuck because they didn't zone it out" years ago, she said of Moore Township.
The commissioners also took a first look at a plan for PennStro Leasing LLC to set up shop at 215 Hilton St., just off Route 78 in Glendon Borough.
The LVPC usually issues recommendations for plans in Lehigh and Northampton counties, but in the cases of the small towns of Glendon, Slatington, West Easton and Chapman, it administers land development and makes final rulings.
The commission will review and vote on the Glendon proposal at a later meeting.
Some LVPC commissioners, such as Chris Amato, have said warehouse development has pushed the Lehigh Valley's quality of life to a tipping point, but developers are still betting that housing in the region is attractive.
Bradley said plans for 783 housing units, mostly apartments, were submitted in August, along with 1.3 million square feet of non-residential space, mostly warehouses. Zebrowski said a lot of the planned housing is of the vertical nature and focused in Bethlehem, but also in Allentown and Easton.
"We are being inundated with development," Zebrowski said, leading into another topic. The commission will seek more money for 2022 from Lehigh and Northampton counties to add staff and deal with the many reviews it must, by law, handle.
Zebrowski welcomed a new commissioner, David Jones, representing Lehigh County.
The next commission meeting will be Oct. 28 and be held virtually. Details will be available on the LVPC website.