Swatara Township to decide on plan to build four warehouses

Township residents say the warehouses would pose health, safety and environmental risks.

  • Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health

(Swatara Township) — People who live near a patch of woods where a developer wants to build four warehouses made their voices heard on the final night of public comments Tuesday.

The warehouse plan would involve razing the greenspace south of 322, a corridor of commuters, trailer trucks and people headed to places like the Tanger Outlets or Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

CRG Integrated Real Estate Solutions says the property, between Penhar and Mushroom Hill Road, is an ideal location for a 1.1 million square foot complex where about 400 workers would repackage and ship everyday consumer products.

The Swatara Township warehouse plan would involve razing the greenspace south of Route 322.

Swatara Township

The Swatara Township warehouse plan would involve razing the greenspace south of Route 322.

To residents, the woods provides a vital buffer from the road, a sponge for rainwater and part of what makes that neighborhood a good place to raise children.

Some wore shirts that read “Swatara Action Team,” a group that sprung up to stop the warehouses from being built—or at least to make sure the developer follows some guidelines.

Attorney Andrew Ralston said his client, Feeser’s Foods, opposes the plan in part because it would make water runoff more of a problem than it already is. He said CRG shouldn’t be allowed to build because it has failed to provide enough details in its application.

“It is my client’s position that as a matter of law you must reject this position because under your own zoning ordinance, the concept of a spec warehouse is not a permitted conditional use,” Ralston said. “Spec” is a term for building something without a particular business lined up.

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Swatara Township commissioner Thomas Connolly listens to public comments Jan. 15, 2020.

Retired geologist Bill Bragonier said development could destabilize nearby properties and will worsen problems with the cancerous radon gas.

“I can tell you, radon was a huge problem in my basement, and I had to do remediation,” he said.

More than 120 people were there—and when asked if anyone wanted the warehouses to be built, none raised their hands. Kimberly Herb noted, more than 1,180 people have signed petitions, in person or online, opposing the plan.

Though some are pushing for the township zoning board to reject the application outright, others are offering some conditions for the developer to meet before it is allowed to proceed.

The group has hired environmental advocate Eric Epstein, who since 1984 has run the nuclear industry watchdog Three Mile Island Alert. At the meeting, Epstein submitted 12 conditions for CRG to meet. Those included paying for sewer hookups, planting trees, putting in a buffer wall and limiting truck traffic.

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Resident Todd Garlic gives public comment Wed. Jan. 15, 2020.

CRG attorney Charles Suhr turned in conditions as well. The developer says it’s willing to consider installing a wall buffer and trees and will comply with noise and light regulations. It says it will restrict truck traffic on Chambers Hill Road, will provide a construction plan to the township to limit debris, dust and runoff and will work with the township on planning.

CRG also says it will contribute $250,000 as a “neighborhood impact fund” to offset the cost of things like property damage or residential sewer hookups.

The township will consider those conditions, said board president Tom Connolly.

“We’re not bound to take one or the other or a combination of both. We have our own responsibility to look at different things.”

The township must also consult with legal experts to determine whether CRG has met the requirements of the application.

The board will decide on Feb. 12, he said. It plans to make its decision public by March 2.

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