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D&H warehouse moves ahead, despite lingering traffic concerns; final OK could come this month

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/5/20

The Lower Swatara Township Planning Commission unanimously approved D&H Distributing’s plans for a 745,200-square foot warehouse on the former Jednota property during its Jan. 23 meeting, …

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D&H warehouse moves ahead, despite lingering traffic concerns; final OK could come this month

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The Lower Swatara Township Planning Commission unanimously approved D&H Distributing’s plans for a 745,200-square foot warehouse on the former Jednota property during its Jan. 23 meeting, although some members expressed concerns about the routes employees will drive to get to work.

“Remember the day because when it comes time, we’ll be back at this again, you understand. Being around long enough to know, people do crazy things to get to work on time, including going through Highspire and through Lumber Street and those places to get up to the site. That’s just one person’s opinion,” planning commission member Eric Breon said.

D&H plans to address some comments made by the commission on the warehouse plan for the north side of Rosedale Avenue, and township Planning and Zoning Coordinator Ann Hursh estimated that the company’s plans could go before the Board of Commissioners on Feb. 19 for final approval.

D&H sells electronics — products ranging from vacuums to televisions — to retailers, college bookstores and “e-tailers,” or online retailers.

It has hubs across the country and in Canada. In total, the company has about 1,300 employees, including about 850 in the Harrisburg area.

During the Jan. 23 meeting, project engineer Ron Secary said D&H hopes to break ground as soon as possible.

“But obviously we have this process to go through and [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] permitting. I think they would like to start sometime in the summer,” Secary said.

He said that D&H, whose distribution center is currently located on Katie Court in Susquehanna Township, has a “tight window which they can use this and make this move without disrupting their operational situation for the end of the year.”

Traffic concerns

Breon said the worker traffic going from the warehouse to White House Lane needs to be studied once the whole site is developed. White House Lane dead-ends from the south into Rosedale Avenue just west of the warehouse site, stretching down past Lisa Lake to Route 230.

“Once the die is cast, there’s no more going back. I’m not going to get you five years from now to say, ‘Hey, that traffic didn’t work out the way we said. And now that road is getting populated by people going to and from work at every shift change,’” Breon said.

Project traffic engineer Craig Mellott said the transportation impact study indicated that a majority of traffic would not go west toward White House Lane.

“I don’t think that’s going to be true,” Breon said.

Mellott said they worked with the township’s consulting engineer firm HRG to examine from where D&H employees will drive in. He said the routes are public roads, and employees can’t be forced not to use them. D&H’s plans call for widening Rosedale along the front of the warehouse to accommodate three lanes and shoulders for bicycles, Mellott said.

However, a wider road is not always better, Mellott said.

“Inevitably it leads to higher speeds as you widen it, and also you’re encouraging people to use it when you don’t necessarily want them to,” Mellott said.

According to Secary, the warehouse tract is 83.29 acres located to the south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, west of the Airport Connector and north of Rosedale Avenue.

In the past, D&H representatives said about 52 acres along the western edge of the site would be preserved and act as a buffer with nearby residences. Hursh said she asked D&H to add more buffer.

The warehouse plans call for 452 parking spaces and 118 trailer parking spaces. There would be two accesses to the warehouse, and Secary said trucks would primarily use the eastern access.

Mellott said their focus was how to keep trucks on the roads they want them to take and off the roads they don’t want them to use.

Mellott said trucks were to drive from Rosedale Avenue to Meade Avenue to West Harrisburg Pike and onto the Airport Connector. A transportation impact study calls for trucks to be prohibited on Rosedale beyond the site to White House Lane and along White House Lane to West Harrisburg Pike.

Mellott said HRG recommended the board of commissioners adopt the prohibition as an ordinance.

One way to keep trucks from going west on Rosedale is through the design of the entrance to make it challenging to turn west on Rosedale, Mellott said. Near the western access would be a turnaround on Rosedale for any trucks that drove west on Rosedale to turn around. Secary called the turnaround a “fail-safe.”

Mellott said there would be signs on Rosedale that would tell truck drivers that they are not supposed to go beyond the western driveway.

The wall and First Catholic Slovak Union’s memorial along Rosedale will be preserved, and Mellott said the widening will take place on the south side of Rosedale. First Catholic Slovak Union is the former owner of the site.

The intersection of Rosedale and Meade avenues also will be reconstructed. Mellott said they will monitor if signals are needed at that intersection and the intersection of the northbound ramp to the Airport Connector and West Harrisburg Pike.

Walking workers?

Hursh asked D&H to consider adding more sidewalks and right-of-way along the south side of Rosedale to White House Lane during her Dec. 27 review. 

Secary said they received that comment that day and hadn’t had a chance to discuss it with their clients but said it would be addressed moving forward.

Alexa Korber, a planner with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, said some employees might walk to the facility from nearby residences or bus stops, and there’s a bike route along Route 230.

The commission recommended deferring sidewalks to the north of Rosedale and denied D&H’s request for a waiver of sidewalks to the south, recommending that sidewalks be extended.

D&H also purchased land to the south of Rosedale, some of which currently is the location of an office park.

The company plans to build a second warehouse, and Mellott said access to the southern warehouse would be across the street from the eastern entrance to the warehouse to the north of Rosedale.