Tinicum Township has granted conditional use approval for any one of six possible uses for a 20-acre, two-parcel, presently vacant tract in the 3600 block of Bedminster Road (Route 113).
The property has a rear boundary on Tohickon Creek, and is in the township’s planned industrial use (PI) zone. The action was taken at the Dec. 3 public meeting of the board of supervisors, following continuation of a conditional use hearing that began at the Nov. 19 meeting.
The conditional use application had been submitted by Christopher Spinieo, a regionally active, commercial and residential contractor based in Montgomeryville, who had asked for approval for one of seven possible uses. At the outset of the Nov. 19 hearing, his attorney stated his intention was to “go to market” to find possible takers for approved uses, understanding he would be allowed to proceed to land development approval for only one of the uses.
In the conditional use decision, only a proposed possible use for automobile repair was denied, as “not compatible with the surrounding residential and agricultural uses and therefore adversely impact harmful to public health, safety, and welfare,” which is the only legal basis a township has for denying conditional use from the list of those allowed in the zone. After the meeting, a township planning commission member explained that the presence of paints, fuels, and solvents were examples of the threat posed by that use.
The approved possible use list, drawn from the 31 PI uses allowed by the township, includes wholesale, printing, contracting, crafts, mini-warehouse, and industrial park. Residents’ environmental and rural character concerns, especially regarding possible harm to Tohickon Creek, highlighted comments at the Nov. 19 hearing and again on Dec. 3.
A list of nine conditions in the approval includes that the developer, as a condition of land development approval, must receive conditional use approval for several Overlay Districts, including Critical Recharge (if deemed applicable to the property); Critical Biodiversity; Prime Farmland and Agricultural Soils; Delaware River Wild and Scenic; Tohickon Watershed; and Woodland and Hedgerow.
Asked if they “made it easy” for the developer, officials explained during the hearings, and before after the meetings, that the developer still had to go through the land development approval process for their chosen use.
They added that denying conditional uses would likely have resulted in an appeal to county court, establishing an undesirable adversarial relationship at the outset with a developer who presented itself as having a track record of working in good faith with communities to minimize or prevent any adverse impact.
The municipal code passed by the state in the early 1970s mandated that municipalities allow a variety of zoning uses within their borders, but with the opportunity to decide where they were. In Tinicum’s PI zone, properties were grandfathered for the use before the code was passed, which was typically farming and residential. The present development proposal is for two parcels that had been sold. Another one, across the road, is understood to likely be next.