Warehouse plan for former Air Products facility approved by Upper Macungie zoners

Written by on July 14, 2022

Warehouse plan for former Air Products facility approved by Upper Macungie zoners

By Jay Bradley
July 14, 2022

The Upper Macungie Township Zoning Hearing board discusses the former Air Products campus project on July 13, 2022. (Photo | WLVR)

A hotly debated warehouse proposal is moving forward in Upper Macungie Township, paving the way for new development at the former Air Products headquarters. But some are concerned it could be a headache for people who live nearby. 

On Wednesday night, the Upper Macungie Township Zoning Hearing Board unanimously approved the construction of three warehouses at 7201 Hamilton Blvd.  

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More than 2.6 million square feet of warehouse space among three buildings are planned to be built and managed by Prologis Inc. following the closing of the sale. 

Cetronia Road would also be expanded and straightened to accommodate increased truck traffic, and a cul-de-sac for U-turns would be built. 

Some residents worried about the development’s impacts on traffic, water runoff and the number of warehouse developments in the area, amid other concerns. Others attended to observe the vote even though the opportunity for public comment was concluded at the prior hearing. 

Michael McCrystal, chairman of the zoning hearing board, said the plan will increase the number of trucks going to and from the warehouses. 

“It’s going to make noise, it’s going to happen at all hours of the day and night,” McCrystal said. “Now, were a lot of those trucks going in there when Air Products was there? Sure. So how much difference is it going to be? I guess it’s a matter of your perspective.”

To address public concerns, a list of 18 stipulations was agreed on by the township and the applicant for development and future tenants. 

One limits the number of tractor-trailers that can access the facility on average in a 24-hour day to 286. 

Conditions also include requiring stormwater control facilities on the site, requiring the preservation of trees along Hamilton Boulevard, the installation of snow scrapers to be used on vehicles accessing or leaving the property, and sound buffers for external machinery.

The entrance to Hamilton Boulevard will be dedicated to Evonik, a company that owns approximately one -fifth of the former Air Products campus. 

The main entrance to the Prologis-owned facility will be on Cetronia Road.

Resident Ben Dobil says he lives right by the planned construction site.

“It’s going to impose upon my family, as it pertains to noise pollution, air pollution, light pollution, water runoff, traffic, [and] certainly, the depreciation of my home value,” said Dobil. “If this goes through as proposed, my three boys are gonna have to cross three lanes of traffic to get on the bus.” 

The board approved a series of stipulations to address concerns, including a limit on the number of trucks that can travel through the neighborhood. 

Studies by the Pidcock Co., commissioned by Air Products, argue that the current plans will not negatively impact traffic at key nearby roads and intersections. Another traffic count will have to be conducted within two years after the completion of the redevelopment or within six months of each of the three warehouses being occupied, according to the agreement.

Another resident, John Landis, said he was concerned that the traffic study was not thorough enough, and a new one should be conducted that has approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

“Air Products has supported this community for many many years,” Landis said. “But this is not helping the community. This is making money without consideration of the people in the neighborhood that will have to live with the results.”

The board said it was confident, however, that the testimony given was sufficient to make its decision.

“Everybody should have their fair chance to say we like it [or] we don’t like it, and they did,“ McCrystal said. “Will they feel like they’ve been heard? Well, that remains to be seen yet. And, you know, I think that the people who are aggrieved from it do have to realize that from their perspective, this isn’t over. If they wish to appeal, they can go to county court and appear in front of a judge.”

Parties would have to file an appeal within 30 days of the decision, according to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.

It remains to be seen who will occupy the new warehouses, something that will not be determined at least until development is under way.

“I think the questions that really we or anyone else can answer is what the project is going to be,” said McCrystal. “They’re going to be renting warehouse space to people who have yet to be determined, and what are they going to warehouse there? I don’t know.”

The representatives for the applicants declined to comment on the result. 

The final plan and designs will need to be presented to Upper Macungie Township supervisors for final approval. 

Upper Macungie Township has provided exhibits and agreements between the township and the applicants for the former Air Products headquarters.

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