On Thursday, January 23, Imperial Realty Property Group representatives stood before the East Allen Township Board of Supervisors and made the case for a 452,000+ square foot warehouse, the latest to be proposed for the township. The warehouse would be located at 1769 Airport Road, on the corner of Airport Road and Route 329. It would replace the current Airport Road Commercial Park and nearby strip mall. This was the second conditional use hearing for Imperial, following one in summer 2019.
Conditional approval had already been granted to the property group in August for a 245,000 square foot warehouse on the property. However, following traffic and safety concerns, developers revamped the design and came back with several new propositions: over 200,000 additional square feet of space, the construction of a new retail plaza across Route 329, a central sewer, and $250,000 in road improvements for the township.
Marc Kaplin, attorney for Imperial, said that supervisors had previously expressed concerns about traffic heading eastbound on Route 329. A large hill blocks site of the traffic light at the Airport Road intersection. Backups at this light can become dangerous. Kaplin said that Imperial took those concerns “to heart.”
Their new plans provide the township with a right-of-way and $250,000 to work with PennDOT to make safety improvements to the state roads. They attended the hearing with a proposed traffic plan, which included a right-turn lane eastbound on Route 329 for drivers turning southbound onto Airport Road. However, this would eliminate access to the strip mall. To make up for the economic loss of losing the strip mall, developers proposed a new 5,000 square foot strip mall across Route 329, between the area’s former bank and Barnhouse Village.
Kaplan stressed that the developers do not need these road improvements to move forward with their plan. However, Imperial wanted to be “good neighbors.”
Road improvements are only required when a development increases traffic. Kaplan said that traffic will in fact decrease overall because of the loss of the retail center. Numbers will decrease from over 1,200 trips to nearly 800 trips per day. However, truck traffic alone will increase.
The township’s planning commission recommended approval of this new plan because it meets the conditions previously outlined by the township: it allocates off-street parking, provides access for trucks to a main roadway, and allocates a plan for trash disposal.
Supervisor Roger Unangst made his personal opinions in regards to the development known: “You are taking career positions [and replacing them] with $9 jobs.”
Supervisors Mark Schwartz and Georgiann Hunsicker also spoke out against the new plan, especially the insinuation that the township will be responsible for all road improvements.
However, Unangst reminded the dozens of residents in attendance that this new warehouse development is allowed “by right” as long as developers meet traffic, noise, trash, and runoff criteria. He said the board’s job is to take “a bad situation and come up with conditions to make a bad situation not as bad.”
“You will get fair conditions,” he assured Imperial.
Instead of granting conditions during the hearing, the decision was tabled and the hearing will be continued on February 27. Supervisors would like their experts to work with Imperial engineers to examine the plan and its proposed road improvements before a decision is made.