MOORE TWP., Pa. – Moore Township has sent 18 pages of comments finding fault with the warehouse plan for the Southmoore Golf Course, but that will not stop two big box buildings from going up along Route 512 in Northampton County.
The land is covered by grass now but it is zoned for industry, and that includes warehouses.
"Legally, we don't have a way to say 'no' if they meet all the conditions in the (zoning) ordinance," Planning Commission Chairman John Becker said at a meeting Monday night. "Right now, they don't."
Residents showed up expecting Waters Edge at Wind Gap LLC to make its case for warehouses, but the developer told the township it needed more time to respond to the comments from Kevin Horvath, township engineer. The development may be on the next planning meeting agenda.
"They sent us a letter Friday they would not be at Monday's meeting because there's too many deficiencies in the plan," Becker said. "They want time to review the letter further and make corrections to their plan and they intend to come back next month."
Some Moore residents expressed hope that there is still a way to block or limit the project. Waters Edge plans to put up two warehouses, one covering 347,750 square feet, the other 140,000 square feet. They will take the place of the golf course, which is on the west side of Route 512.
John Ritter, whose Jones Road home is near the course, suggested there may be a deed covenant from an earlier owner of the land that bars development. If so, the township has not seen it.
Mike Tirrell inquired about the 18-page comment letter to Waters Edge.
"At what point do we say to the applicant, 'there are too many revisions, submit a new plan?'" he asked.
A new plan would fall under the township's recently revised zoning ordinance, which adds restrictions to warehouses. That revision does not apply to the current Waters Edge plan, which was submitted before the changes were approved.
"The township has to make a good-faith review of this plan," Solicitor David Backenstoe said.
The developer has the opportunity to improve the plan to meet township standards, and Backenstoe has said earlier that a plan cannot be blocked just because residents do not like it. That could lead to expensive litigation.
Becker said the township did not subject the Waters Edge proposal to more scrutiny than any other request, even though it is unpopular.
"We treat all plans alike," he said. They are judged on their merits, based on the law, and like it or not, he said Waters Edge can address the engineer's comments and move ahead with the process.
"They have every legal right to do it," if the issues are resolved, Becker said. "There are still a lot of things they have to say and do before they get that approval."
Becker said of the planning commission's feedback on the plan, "A normal plan — I've seen six, eight, maybe 10 pages. So this is an exceptionally long letter saying there's a lot of things that don't comply."
Even though the development was pulled from Monday's agenda, residents continued to plead their case to the commission to not pass the project.
"So we're going to get traffic all hours of the day waking us up," said one meeting participant.
"Where I live now, and these warehouses are going to be not too far from where I live now, I also have trucks there right now that run during the night that keep me awake," another resident said. "You have to live in my house to feel what I'm thinking and I'm feeling because you can't sleep and we're going to have more trucks running through there."
Becker said residents need to be involved in township government and making their opinions known before an unpopular development is proposed.
"You need to be involved for years to see how the system's working," he said.
Becker reiterated that point after the meeting.
"People need to be involved now for what's going to happen five years down the road," he said.
The next planning commission meeting will be Oct. 25, according to Moore's website.