The Moore Township Zoning Hearing Board met Thursday, October 27 to continue the ongoing hearing of the Water’s Edge proposal appeal. The ongoing appeal that began in June challenges the substantive validity of various sections of the township’s zoning ordinance and zoning officer determinations.
The hearing began with a direct examination of the Township Zoning Officer, Jason L. Harhart by Township Solicitor David M. Backenstoe.
Harhart testified that the township does not issue building permits because Moore Township is an opt-out municipality for all commercial code enforcement. This means that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is responsible for all commercial code enforcement in Moore Township and therefore, issues all commercial building permits as well.
Backenstoe established that during Township Engineer Kevin Horvath’s testimony, he misstated some of the issues associated with a zoning permit versus a building permit and the procedures for obtaining both, whereas zoning permits must be issued first before any other permits can be issued after land development approval for all township structures. As such, all construction in the township first requires a zoning permit issued by the zoning officer.
Backenstoe also established that the answer to the applicant’s representation, Attorney Marc B. Kaplin’s question during the October meeting regarding whether his client does not have to obtain a zoning permit until the occupant is known was misleading because a zoning permit must be issued first before any construction begins in the township.
Harhart testified that Kaplin’s previous allegations regarding the statements of non-compliance with several issues on the Keystone Consulting Engineers’ review letters were also false because the letters stated that the findings were that the applicant did not provide adequate information, rather than that the applicant was not in compliance. Additionally, Harhart stated that he never received a follow-up email from the applicant or a revised plan after additional information was requested.
Next, Harhart read section W of the ordinance’s preamble, which states: “When submitting this actual land development plan for the warehouse, the applicant shall provide a detailed description of the proposed use in each of the topics.” Therefore, the applicant was required to provide a description of the proposed uses of the warehouses, and not the name of the tenant as Kaplin had suggested. However, the applicant did not provide a sufficient response for the detailed proposed uses of the warehouses.
Harhart testified that the applicant did not provide adequate information for the following areas although a generalized answer was provided: general scale of the operation, terms of its market area, specific floor space requirements for each activity, total number of employees on each shift, and overall needed site size. Harhart also found that the applicant did not sufficiently provide the specifics of the environmental impacts of odor, noise, smoke, dust, litter, glare, vibration, electric disturbance, wastewater, stormwater, solid waste, etc. and specific measures employed to mitigate or eliminate any of the negative impacts to meet the requirements of the application.
Following, Backenstoe established through Harhart’s testimony that the applicant did not schedule a meeting with the township engineer, zoning officer, and PennDOT to define the scope of a traffic study that would show any major traffic impacts to the roads and neighborhoods.
Additionally, Harhart testified that his interpretation of the preservation of the woodlands and the requirement of the 100-foot-wide raised berm buffer yard along the entire length of the property line is that the berm could be constructed between the building and the road to not disturb the woodlands, which would comply with the ordinance.
Later in the hearing, Stephen M. Walsh from Dynamic Engineering Consultants representing Water’s Edge at Wind Gap, presented a new plan, which had not been seen or reviewed by the township prior to the October hearing and was referred to as the submission of an alternate plan.
The new plan had adjustments made to the buildings, which were rotated to allow for 60% protection of the woodland area and to ensure headlights from tractor trailers are not facing the roads or residential areas, a narrower berm to maximize the benefit of the woodlands, the berm placed behind the woodlands along Jones, removal of the emergency egress on Jones Road, building two was dropped 4’ and set further back, and a 10% increase in size for building two, which increases the size of the building by approximately 15,000 square feet for a total size of 156,000 square feet.
However, Backenstoe established that the 10% increase in size for building two would pose different calculations for various requirements in the ordinance.
During public comment/testimony, numerous residents presented their concerns regarding the intersections around the property, which were explained to be congested and difficult to maneuver due to blind spots. Several residents also pointed out that the proposed intersection will make it increasingly unsafe for children that get on and off the school bus in that area because vehicles are unable to stop for the school buses and instead, pass around them.
“Public safety is our number one concern,” Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Jeffrey Ayers assured residents.
Due to the new submission of an alternate land development plan, the township engineer, Zoning Hearing Board, zoning officer, and public will now have time to review the alternate plan. Chairman Ayers requested that Horvath prepare a new high-level conceptual review letter after Walsh provides Horvath with updated specification requirements, which will assess whether the alternate plan meets zoning requirements and will be made public. The next appeal meeting will allow Backenstoe to rebut the exhibit.
The Water’s Edge at Wind Gap warehouse development proposal appeal will reconvene on Thursday, December 8 at 6 p.m. at the Klecknersville Rangers Vol