A Pennsylvania zoning hearing board denied developer Water’s Edge of Wind Gap LLC’s plans to build two warehouses on Southmoore Golf Club in Bath, Pa. The developer acquired the property in late 2021. The land is zoned industrial, with warehouses permitted.
The Moore Township (Pa.) Zoning Hearing Board on Feb. 10 denied developer Water’s Edge of Wind Gap LLC’s plans to build two warehouses on Southmoore Golf Club in Bath, Pa., which has been operating since 1992, The Allentown Morning Call reported. The decision followed a ruling earlier in the week in another Northampton County community, when Lower Nazareth Township supervisors approved amending a law that could severely curtail any new, giant structures.
Moore zoners voted unanimously on 10 issues or challenges raised by Water’s Edge developer Jack Muschlitz, The Morning Call reported. The challenges included slopes, woodlands and how much information Muschlitz needed to provide on who might occupy the warehouses.
Zoning board solicitor Chad DiFelice said the board ruled that township zoning officer Jason Harhart’s interpretation of the proposed warehouses was not “arbitrary, unreasonable or unlikely designed to promote public health and safety,” The Morning Call reported.
DiFelice said the township wanted to know what type of businesses would the developer likely bring in, TheMorning Call reported.
“They never said, ‘You need to tell us exactly who it is, Amazon, Apple or whoever,” DiFelice said. “Just give us information about what you expect.”
The Feb. 10 session was the continuation of a public hearing that stretched over six meetings that began in July 2022, The Morning Call reported. Jeffrey Ayers, Zoning Board Chairman, immediately announced members would enter into executive session and that there would be no public comment from the board.
After more than 90 minutes of deliberation, the board voted unanimously to reject Water’s Edge on the issues and challenges, The Morning Call reported.
Resident A.J. Maniscalco, whose home would abut one of the warehouses, called the zoners’ ruling a “great win for the community,” The Morning Call reported.
DiFelice said a written opinion on the board action is due in 45 days, and appeals can be filed in Northampton County Court within 30 days after the opinion, The Morning Call reported.
Water’s Edge attorney Marc Kaplin previously told The Morning Call he intended to appeal the decision. Neither Muschlitz nor Kaplan attended the meeting at the township municipal building, where it was also livestreamed, and they could not be reached for comment.
Maniscalco said he expects an appeal, The Morning Call reported. “But it’s going to be a few years, and that’s going to put a hole in [Muschlitz’s] pocket. This is going to calcify the community even more. It’s going to bring everybody in the community together.”
Maniscalco and other residents said they are not concerned what it will cost to continue fighting the development, The Morning Call reported.
“If it has to be, you know what? It is the right thing to do,” he said.
The Water’s Edge project would consist of two warehouses totaling nearly 500,000 sq. ft., on more than 50 acres of Southmoore, The Morning Call reported. The developer acquired the property in late 2021. The land is zoned industrial, with warehouses permitted.
Still, the project generated opposition from neighbors and people in nearby communities over noise and truck traffic, and opponents began filling meeting rooms since the first public session in July, The Morning Call reported. The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission said the proposal is “the definition of poor development.”
The LVPC’s concern focused on the distance to highway interchanges and the potential for increased traffic in Nazareth and Bath from what would be called the Southmoore Business Center, The Morning Call reported. While the commission cannot block development proposals—municipalities decide such projects—its members have grown concerned in recent years over what they see as a proliferation of warehouse development in the Valley.
Moore supervisors in 2021 passed an ordinance that places limits on warehouses, The Morning Call reported. It does not apply to the Water’s Edge plan, which was submitted before the township law took effect.
In Lower Nazareth Township, supervisors on voted unanimously to amend the township zoning ordinance to delete warehouses or distribution centers as a use permitted by right within its light industrial zoning district, The Morning Call reported. Lower Nazareth solicitor Gary Asteak could not be reached after business hours for comment.
The revised ordinance will only affect new applications, The Morning Call reported. Three applications to locate warehouses in Lower Nazareth will not be affected by the change.
The proliferation of warehouses throughout the Lehigh Valley has been a topic of concern for many residents in recent years, from Lowhill to Upper Mount Bethel townships and other places, including Moore, The Morning Call reported. In its latest report, commercial real estate company CBRE said Northampton County has 48.2 million sq. ft. of warehouse space with a 5% vacancy rate and 4.7 million sq. ft. under construction.
Lehigh County has 64.2 million sq. ft. of warehouse space with a 2.1% vacancy rate and nearly 570,000 sq. ft. under construction.
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