Members of the Lehigh Township Planning Commission agreed to send a draft ordinance on township warehouse restrictions to the board of supervisors for consideration at their July 10 meeting. The ordinance is aimed toward large warehouses and would restrict warehouse development from every type of township zoning district except for those that are designated for industrial use.
The ordinance would bar warehouses from being developed in any district that’s not industrial, and would set other restrictions on how they would be allowed to be built within industrial districts.
The ordinance, if approved by the board of supervisors, would set a maximum building coverage of 50 percent. This limitation would mean that the physical building can only cover 50 percent of the plot of land, essentially limiting how large a warehouse can be.
Additionally, the planning commission discussed maximum lot coverage percentages, which would limit how much land could be used for total development, including both the building and relevant parking lots.
Planning Commission Chairman David Shulman cautioned against making restrictions too harsh, particularly pointing to the maximum total coverage percentages. Shulman said leaving a little bit of wiggle room can protect the township from unwanted conflicts with developers.
Township Engineer Phil Malitsch echoed those concerns.
“I would think that we can’t put something in the ordinance that is overly restrictive for industrial zones,” Malitsch said.
“We have an extremely limited industrial area left,” Shulman said. “And we’ve had numerous discussions… could we be challenged because we don’t have enough industrial space?”
Currently, the township only has one 60-acre industrial lot.
However, Shulman maintained that the ordinance’s development is to protect from excessive warehouse development and that a cap needs to be placed to limit total lot coverage.
“Certainly, it should not be 100 percent,” he said.
The ordinance would also limit building height to 36 feet at the highest point, lowering it from a current height of 50 feet. The planning commission initially discussed making the maximum height 35 feet, but changed it to the standard warehouse height of 36 feet to avoid any potential problems.
“Rather than create the issue upfront, just make it 36 [feet] and be done with it,” Shulman said.
Planners also expressed support for the ordinance to require traffic studies and turning templates for any warehouse project that also detail what types of tractor trailers the development will attract.
The proposed ordinance seemed to be received favorably by the few township residents who were in attendance. Resident Frank Vitovitch, while favorable toward the ordinance, said the township must follow and enforce it if it gets enacted.
“I think this is exactly the time to be restrictive. The ordinances are adopted to protect the area and the residents,” said Vitovitch. “If we enact this, we have to stick to it.”