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Planners Give Hesitant 'Yes' to Warehouse Plan

The Lower Nazareth Planning Commission grants approval for two warehouses on a 58-acre lot opposite ProLogis Parkway, asks supervisors to consider a few things before voting 'yes.'

First Industrial Realty Trust Inc., the owners of the 58-acre lot opposite ProLogis Parkway in , sought approval from the township Monday night for its First Park 33 plans.

The company got the approval for the dual warehouse project, although the planners will send a list of concerns to the township supervisors.

First Industrial, a division of Chicago-based First Industrial Realty Trust Inc., with a combined square footage of nearly 600,000 square feet.

A previous design had a single 700,000-square-foot building.

The two buildings will face each other with loading docks running the length of the warehouses, which do not have tenants yet. This will keep the activity centralized with less disruptive activity to the neighborhood, Paul Szewczak, a principal at Liberty Engineering Inc. in Allentown, told the Planning Commission in September.

At Monday's meeting, Szewczak explained that the rear of one of the buildings will face houses, the rear of the other building will face a wooded lot.

Tractor trailers will not be able to unload behind the buildings, Szewczak has previously said, but fire trucks will be able to fit if needed.

Since this was the company's second trip to the Planning Commission in about seven months, Szewczak spent much of his time addressing the commission's concerns from the September meeting.

One of those concerns was how much of the warehouses neighbors will be able to see.

Szewczak said the warehouses will be 44 feet high, but the buildings will sit below the ground level of the residential properties. There will also be a 5- to 9-foot wall with two rows of staggered evergreen trees. This is meant to create a visible barrier, Szewczak said.

“If someone is standing at the property line, they can’t see the building,” he said.

However, Szewczak noted, some of the building or roof could possibly be seen from a second-floor window.

In September, Szewczak told the Planning Commission that the company planned to install an 8-to 10-foot berm between the warehouse and the residential properties. The company also planned to put a 6-foot tall fence on top of the wall.

He said First Industrial backed off on that design because the wall and fence seemed to make people feel closed in.

Szewczak tried to reassure commission members that the buildings will be aesthetically pleasing.

“It’s not intended to be a metal box,” he said. “It’s intended to be a high quality investment property.”

The commission's second concern was for Mandy Partners in Easton to have access to the same entry and exit point as First Industrial.

Mandy Partners owns an undeveloped parcel that is adjacent to the 58-acre parcel First Industrial plans to develop.

The company was told in September that the commission will give approval to the plan only if a conditional-use easement is incorporated.

The plan presented at Monday's meeting had a 60-foot wide roadway leading in the direction of the Mandy Partners property, but the easement was still being worked out.

Bob Hoyer, who owns land adjacent to the First Industrial property, said he has concerns about traffic. He told the commission that it should make sure that traffic dumps onto major roadways -- if it doesn’t, then tractor trailers will be, more often than not, using residential roads.

“Access has to be provided through these guys’ property,” Hoyer said. “If some sort of access isn’t created somewhere along the line, you’re creating a hardship.”

Erich Schock, an attorney at Fitzpatrick, Lentz and Bubba, spoke on behalf of Mandy Partners.

Schock said his clients wanted to see that an updated traffic study is completed and that storm water maintenance concerns were addressed. They also wanted to see the signage plans for First Industrial’s entrance and exit.

Szewczak addressed the storm water maintenance concerns, and the commissioners addressed the rest in its approval and list of concerns to the supervisors.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan, but it sent a list of concerns to the .

Before the supervisors vote "yes," the commission would like First Industrial to consider the following:

  • The access point for Mandy Partners should be made available for the longterm -- the easement issue should be finalized.
  • A mix of trees -- not just evergreens -- should be used for the barrier between the warehouses and the residential properties.
  • There should be signage for Mandy Partners.
  • Think about the possibility of sidewalks. More people are parking along Route 248 and walking to , especially in the early morning.
  • A discussion should be held about stronger enforcement of noise issues (i.e. large trucks on nearby country roads).

Gregory Davis, an attorney with Saul Ewing LLP, said First Industrial does not have a strict timeline for construction to begin or the name of a buyer.

Once all approvals are granted, the company will then actively market the warehouse space, he said.

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