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Proposed warehouse in Hilltown concerns residents


From a traffic increase to potential stormwater and noise issues, Hilltown residents have worries about a 217,000-square-foot warehouse that’s proposed to be built in their township.

Carson Companies, a warehouse developer that has more than 20 million square feet of warehouse space spread across locations in eastern Pennsylvania, Southern California and the Houston, Texas, area, wants to build the facility on a 19.2-acre site on Bethlehem Pike near Reliance Road.

To do so, the developer must obtain conditional use approval from the Hilltown Board of Supervisors. A “conditional use” means the proposed development – in this case a warehouse – is permitted under current zoning as long as the applicant can meet the explicit criteria contained in the local ordinance for that particular use.

A public hearing on the conditional use application occurred Tuesday, May 9 before supervisors. It stretched on for more than two hours, with testimony from Carson professionals and cross-examination of those witnesses by residents with worries about how the project could impact the area.

The hearing concluded without supervisors taking a vote. It’s currently scheduled to resume on May 31 at 6 p.m. at the township municipal building at 13 W. Creamery Road.

Even if Carson Companies earns conditional use approval from supervisors, that does not mean the firm has the green-light to build.

Carson will also have to obtain land development approval from supervisors – a process that will involve submitting fully-engineered development plans and participating in public hearings where residents will be able to pose questions and comment on the plan.

Barbara Geitz’s property borders the site of the proposed warehouse.

“My issue is with the intensity of this massive industrial building amongst mix use/light industrial properties. It’s not a good fit for the area,” Geitz told the Herald before the hearing.

She added that there are residential properties nearby too and that “many folks use the Bethlehem Pike corridor to get to the shopping district. I’m concerned with the added traffic it will bring.”

At the hearing, other residents raised concerns that activity at the warehouse could generate disruptive noise and produce stormwater runoff that exacerbates flooding issues for neighboring properties. Some have potential groundwater impacts on their minds. “I’m worried about the water table,” said John Frank, who lives near the site.

Shaun Haas, an engineer with Langan Engineering who’s working on the project for Carson Companies, addressed some of the concerns.

Haas said stormwater control infrastructure will be used to meet a required standard that dictates that runoff from the built-out site be no more than the current rate of run off. Noise activity will conform to township code regarding decibel levels, he said.

Some residents are worried the facility could serve as a huge shipping and receiving hub. Haas said that’s not the plan. “It’s not an Amazon,” he said, though noted that trucks will likely be coming and going in support of whatever operation sets up shop.

R. Christopher Hermance, an executive with Carson Companies, said no tenant is lined up yet. He noted that the warehouse was more likely to feature a light manufacturing operation or a “local distributor” of some kind.

Hermance estimated that the facility would house 20 to 50 employees. Under cross-examination, he said that there’s no restriction on employee count but that it wouldn’t make sense logistically to “overload” the building. The site will have 145 parking spaces, as envisioned, but that’s to provide for flexibility, he said.

In its quest to build in Hilltown, Carson Companies has already obtained variances from the local Zoning Hearing Board. One allows the building to be 45-feet high, when 35 feet is the maximum allowed. The other enables Carson to slightly exceed permitted impervious surface coverage of 60%; Carson is looking at impervious surface of a shade under 62%.

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