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Londonderry vote paves way for logistics facilities, mini-warehouses and business parks along 230

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 9/4/19

The Londonderry Township Board of Supervisors unanimously approved zoning changes Tuesday that will clear the way for the development of land at Lytle Farms; on a tract behind Saturday’s …

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Londonderry vote paves way for logistics facilities, mini-warehouses and business parks along 230

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The Londonderry Township Board of Supervisors unanimously approved zoning changes Tuesday that will clear the way for the development of land at Lytle Farms; on a tract behind Saturday’s Market; and land behind Ed’s Landscaping off Route 230 near Hoffer Road.

It was standing room only as residents crowded the township municipal building meeting room while another dozen stood in the hall.

Supervisors approved zoning ordinance amendments to expand the C-2 district and add conditional uses within it, to include the potential to build logistics facilities, mini-warehouses and business parks. The zoning ordinance was adopted in 1979.

A public hearing Tuesday night before the board of supervisors meeting, which about 100 people attended, lasted about 2 1/2 hours with about 30 people speaking.

“You guys have a lot of questions you can’t answer. I don’t think we should be voting tonight,” resident John Crater said. Crater had asked whether he would have pay someone to inspect his sewer system if he hooks onto the public sewer to which township manager Steve Letavic answered that it was a question for Derry Township Municipal Authority, which will be receiving the township’s sewage.

The supervisors ended up approving the amendments during their 17-minute regular meeting after the hearing, without any discussion of the issue immediately before the vote.

Allowing the land to be developed will help pay for public sewer lines along the Route 230 corridor instead of the costs solely being shouldered by taxpayers, advocates say.

Two developers — Core5 Industrial Partners and Vision Group Ventures — are planning to invest $15 million to install public sewer lines and a pump station and provide an upfront capacity reservation fee to Derry Township Municipal Authority.

Township tax collector Loren Bowen voiced his support, saying people coming into the township are struggling to pay their taxes.

The public sewer line is coming whether or not they want it, he said.

“If the entire cost of this project gets dumped on the homeowners that are here now, it’s going to put a lot of people out of their homes,” Bowen said. The township has worked hard to find partners, and “it looks like this is really the best option we’re going to have, and I think without this, our homeowners are going to be in trouble.”

This conversation is being spurred by Londonderry’s Act 537 plan.

Municipalities such as Londonderry are required to develop a sewage facilities plan under the 1966 Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act, known as Act 537, and the township’s plan calls for public sewer in several areas including the Route 230 corridor and a housing development called Londonderry Estates.

Bringing public sewer is estimated to cost a total of $27.5 million. Londonderry Estate’s sewer was to be operational by 2021, and the Route 230 sewer by 2026.

Township Solicitor Mark Stewart said the township legally doesn’t have the ability to borrow that level of money. The township has a choice — increase revenue by increasing the tax base or raise taxes, he said.

If the sewer plans had to be funded by taxpayers, taxes would increase by $377 per home every year for 30 years, Stewart said.

“The solution pretty much always has been for the township to find partners to shoulder the burden of these costs,” Stewart said.

Courtney Archer lives on Beagle Road, and she said her major concern was the development behind Saturday’s Market, which is near Londonderry Elementary School.

“As a parent with three children that are either there or will go there, the noise, the air pollution, the traffic is all very concerning to me,” Archer said. “It’s also concerning from a property value standpoint. I know there’s a concern that raising taxes will decrease our property value, but for me being next to potentially mini-warehouses or a logistics site will decrease my property value.”

The zoning amendments were recommended by the township planning commission Aug. 26.

“For me, personally, it’s been somewhat of a long road considering this or it’s deja vu all over again, if you will, because I was before you many years ago when the talk was to consider having traditional neighborhood developments along this corridor,” Stewart said.

Two traditional residential developments had been proposed on Lytle Farms and School Heights Village, which was behind Saturday’s Market.

Stewart said the types of projects envisioned for the corridor at that time “evaporated” and aren’t something done today.

The philosophy from years’ past — to try to preserve the agricultural and rural character for the majority of the township and focus development along Route 230 — is the same, Stewart said.

Core5 and Vision Group Ventures both have envision projects that, according to Stewart, would entail “essentially logistic centers or distribution centers or warehousing, whatever term you want to put on it.”

Core5 is planning on developing the portion of the former Lytle Farms north of Route 230, just east of the Swatara Creek, and the School Heights Village development. Vision Group Ventures wants to develop the land off Hoffer Road.

A third developer wants to build the traditional neighborhood development on the Lytle development south of Route 230, but these plans are contingent on the northern portion of the tract being developed, according to Stewart.

According to Stewart, trucks from the Lytle warehouse would head to the Route 283 interchange via Vine Street in Middletown. Trucks from the former School Heights Village development would use Tollhouse Road, and trucks from the Hoffer Road would use the interchange in Elizabethtown.

Township resident and truck driver Thom Bell said he wasn’t opposed to the development, “but Middletown isn’t going to be very happy with this truck traffic going to Vine Street.”

The borough might have to rebuild the intersection of Vine and Main streets because it’s a “nuthouse” trying to get a truck to make a right turn, he said.

“I hate to go through that intersection, and my trailer is not that big,” Bell said.

Supervisor Ron Kopp has served different roles for the township since 1991, including on the planning commission. He said he remembers numerous proposals for developing these tracts. When the projects came before supervisors, he said, residents did not want them. He said he would tell the residents it wasn’t a problem because the township didn’t have public water or sewer, and the developments wouldn’t happen without public water or sewer.

Kopp is a farmer, and he said he understood that people want the township to be rural.

“You’re talking about losing half of my land base here if this happens. … We all live here. We’re all members of this community. None of us want to be the next senator or legislator of the state. We’re here because we want to serve the community. We’re not here to try to take some money and run. We’re trying to do the best that we can do for the community,” Kopp said.

This isn’t a conversation whether to install public sewer or not, he said, because it’s being required by the state.

These are credible developers who have the money to help the township, Kopp said.