The Moore Township Zoning Hearing Board met Wednesday, February 1 to hear the final testimony from the Water’s Edge at Wind Gap warehouse development proposal appeal of the engineer and zoning officer’s determinations. The ongoing appeal that began in June 2022 challenges the substantive validity and requests relief of various sections of the township’s zoning ordinances and zoning officer determinations.
To begin, attorney Marc B. Kaplin (representing Water’s Edge at Wind Gap) explained the revised concept plan was sent back to the Planning Commission on January 23, and that he believes the findings should be incorporated into the record and considered by the Zoning Hearing Board during their decision.
The Planning Commission passed a motion to recommend the following to the Zoning Hearing Board: four-foot buffer trees on Moorestown Road, planting extra trees for woodlands replacement, realigning Jones Road and improvements to the curve of Jones Road, additional berm on western property line, and 113 additional parking spaces in front of building two with an underground retention basin, which would replace the proposed aboveground stormwater retention basin.
Kaplin added that the challenges and requests for the following items have been withdrawn due to Township Engineer Kevin Horvath’s findings during previous testimony: the conflict with the berm has been eliminated because the applicant is willing to compromise and put the berm behind the woodland area; the parking, staging, and loading challenge; the challenge and request for variance in regard to the proposed lighting; and the challenge regarding the scope of the traffic study because the applicant’s engineer Stephen M. Walsh from Dynamic Engineering Consultants met with traffic engineers for the township and PennDOT.
Therefore, the Zoning Hearing Board appeal thus far has dwindled the list of challenges and requests from the applicant down to two challenges and one variance request. Kaplin expressed the applicant is willing to comply with everything else the township engineer and zoning officer have determined or requested if the township is willing to grant the variance and votes in favor of the two remaining challenges.
The applicant is still challenging the zoning officer’s determination that more information is needed regarding the tenant even though the applicant believes they provided sufficient information regarding a “typical” tenant based on general warehouse use.
The applicant is also still challenging the interpretation of the township engineer regarding man-made versus natural steep slopes. They believe that the determination that man-made steep slopes and steep slopes within previously disturbed areas are not exempt from preservation requirements is contrary to the ordinance because the ordinance does not differentiate man-made steep slopes from natural steep slopes and because the ordinance says that natural steep slopes have to be preserved but does not include man-made steep slopes in the ordinance or definition. Kaplin explained he believes the ordinance is clear, and that the applicant should not have to protect man-made steep slopes. Kaplin added the steep slopes provision would significantly interfere with the development of the project.
Last, Water’s Edge is still requesting a minor variance for the preservation requirement of the woodlands on the property. The ordinance calls for a 60% preservation requirement for woodland areas. However, the applicant has proposed filling in some of the disturbed areas with additional trees and are therefore only requesting relief for 5% of the preservation rate, making the preservation requirement 55% due to the relocation of Jones Road that would disturb a large portion of the trees and woodland area on the property.
During public comment, many residents voiced their concerns that Route 512 is not able to handle the amount of tractor trailers that will be backed up onto the highway as well as other highways such as Route 248 that neighbor the property. Many residents also voiced the concern that the Borough of Bath cannot handle the truck traffic these warehouses will bring.
However, Chairman Jeffrey Ayers explained the township does not get to determine if the roads can handle the traffic because the township does not have jurisdiction over state roads—PennDOT does.
Ayers also made residents aware that the Civilian Right-To-Know Act does not allow toxic materials to be warehoused near a residential area and that residents will have a right to know what is being housed in the warehouses when they have a tenant.
Township Solicitor David M. Backenstoe commented that the language of the steep slopes provision is unequivocally clear in that it does not exclude man-made steep slopes and that the applicant does not comply with the ordinance, leaving no other way to interpret this.
Backenstoe also argued that although the township cannot require the applicant name a specific tenant when there is none, they can ask for the determined use and hours. If not, the applicant can request a variance, but they have not done so.
Backenstoe also opined that the 14-foot berm should still be required.
The Zoning Hearing Board will decide on how they want to vote and make a decision on each individual challenge or request after an executive session that will be held on Friday, February 10 at 6 p.m. in the township’s municipal building, located at 2491 Community Dr. However, due to limited space, residents are encouraged to attend via the Zoom link that will be available on the township’s website, mooretownship.org.