The Moore Township Zoning Hearing Board met Friday, February 10 to deliberate on the Water’s Edge at Wind Gap LLC warehouse development proposal appeal. The ongoing appeal that began June 6, 2022 over the course of a six part hearing challenged the substantive validity and requested relief of various sections of the township’s zoning ordinances as well as determinations made by the Engineer and Zoning Officer.
The Water’s Edge development plans proposed the development of two industrial warehouse buildings on the 51.12 acres of land at 235 Moorestown Road, which was acquired from Southmoore Golf Course on December 28, 2021 for $2.63 million by Water’s Edge developer Jack Muschlitz. Then, in December 2022, the applicant submitted a revised concept plan to address some of the issues found by the Engineer and Zoning Officer.
The revised concept plan had several significant changes such as the buildings being rotated to allow for 55% 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 Road, the removal of the emergency egress on Jones Road, building two was dropped four feet 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 with the larger proposed building remaining at 347,750 square feet.
During the continuance on February 1, Water’s Edge conditionally reduced their list of challenges and requests down to two challenges and one variance request. The applicant’s representation, Attorney Marc B. Kaplin expressed that they were 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.
Upon final testimony, Water’s Edge was still challenging the Zoning Officer’s determination that more information was needed regarding the tenant, even though the applicant believed they provided sufficient information regarding a “typical” tenant based on general warehouse use.
The applicant was also challenging the interpretation of the Township Engineer regarding man-made slopes versus natural steep slopes. Kaplin argued that the determination of man-made steep slopes and steep slopes within previously disturbed areas not being exempt from preservation requirements was contrary to the ordinance since the ordinance does not differentiate between man-made steep slopes and natural steep slopes. Therefore, the applicant believed they should not have to preserve man-made steep slopes on the property.
Water’s Edge was also requesting a minor variance from the 60% preservation requirement of the woodlands on the property. However, the applicant proposed filling in some of the disturbed areas with additional trees and therefore requested relief for just 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.
However, after an hour and a half of deliberation during an executive session, the board unanimously voted to deny the applicant’s challenge of the Zoning Officer’s determinization regarding the validity of steep slopes, the challenge of the Zoning Officer’s interpretation of requirements when submitting a land development plan, and the request for a 5% variance from the woodland preservation rate.
Since the board did not vote in favor of the applicant, they also had to vote on the seven other challenges and requests that Water’s Edge previously submitted as conditional withdrawals.
The board unanimously voted to deny all seven of the applicant’s challenges to the Zoning Officer’s interpretation and the substantive validity of the Moore Township Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) dealing with open space recreational fees, improvements to the adjacent Jones Road, additional requirements for improvements to Jones Road, the grading of Jones Road, traffic signs that may be required, road striping, and steep slopes.
The Moore Township Zoning Hearing Board is required to submit a written decision within 45 days from when the case was closed on February 1. Then, if the applicant wishes to appeal the decision, they will have to file an appeal with the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas within 30 days of the written decision.
Moore Township residents took to Facebook to claim the board’s decisions as a win for the community. Dozens of residents expressed their thanks to the Zoning Hearing Board for their dedication to protecting the township and exclaimed that the deliberation was “wonderful news.” Other residents also shared their gratefulness for everyone that continued to show up for the hearings and for those that were brave enough to testify during the appeal.
However, victory may be short lived for residents given that Attorney Kaplin previously expressed his client’s intent to appeal the decision if the board did not rule in their favor.
More information about the hearing including the Zoning Hearing Board transcripts can be found on the township’s website, mooretownship.org.