The curative amendment hearing between Rock-Lehigh Valley, a subsidiary of the Rockefeller Group, and East Allen Township continued virtually on Wednesday, June 2 at 6:30 p.m.
Rock-Lehigh Valley filed for a hearing in July 2019 after the township denied their rezoning request for 155 acres of land west of Weaversville Road; they asked that the land be rezoned from agricultural to industrial, which would allow for the constructions of two one-million-square-foot warehouses. According to Rock-Lehigh Valley, the township acted in bad faith and does not allow for logistics centers in their zoning ordinances. Their argument states that a logistics center is different from a warehouse, and is therefore not a use accounted for by the township.
On the other hand, East Allen Township is arguing that they allow for logistics centers since township ordinances list warehouses as an option for land use and development; further, a “logistics center is nothing more than a fancy name for a warehouse,” said special counsel for the township Kimberly Freimuth. Freimuth also expressed that there are plenty of uses for the land parcel as it is currently zoned.
Kenneth Amey was called forward as a land planning expert and the final witness for the township; Amey has been certified as a land planner since 1994. He solidified the township’s argument that Rock-Lehigh Valley’s claims have no merit.
Amey stated that a logistics center is “a more finely-formed definition of warehouse,” characterizing it as a subset of a warehouse. This means that the township’s zoning ordinances do provide for Rock-Lehigh Valley’s logistics center. During his testimony, he also stated that he has not seen a logistics center defined in any municipal codes before, referencing surrounding townships as evidence.
Further, Amey testified that the property in question is currently zoned appropriately, especially in relation to surrounding designations. As seen on the township’s zoning map, surrounding areas are zoned as Agricultural/Rural Residential (A/RR), Agricultural (AG), and Suburban Residential (SR). The neighboring area in Allen Township is zoned as Industrial/ Commercial (I/C), making the A/RR designation of the property in question even more appropriate so as to not interfere with the airport.
In Amey’s opinion, rezoning the area to allow for a warehouse or logistics center would “introduce an intense non-residential district in an area of East Allen Township where the current zoning scheme in the township is for less intensive uses in this area.”
Further, there are many properties seen on the zoning map that are both available for warehouse use or are currently being used for warehouses. Many of these areas are east of Airport Road, as opposed to the area in question that is located in the southwestern part.
Another part of Rock-Lehigh Valley’s argument is that the Agricultural destination makes the property outdated and unusable. Amey stated that the East Allen’s Comprehensive Plan recommends the property be used for continuing agricultural use or non-residential use; the recently-adopted Lehigh Valley Comprehensive Plan recommends that the area be designated as an area of farmland preservation.
The curative amendment hearing will continue on Monday, June 28 at 6:30 p.m. in Allen Township’s Fire Company Building on Howertown Road; there will be time for public comment and closing arguments.