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Company gets conditional approval to build two warehouses in eastern Londonderry Township

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/20/20

Vision Group Ventures can build two warehouses along Route 230, provided the company meets a number of conditions being imposed by Londonderry Township.

Supervisors on Wednesday night voted …

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Company gets conditional approval to build two warehouses in eastern Londonderry Township

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Vision Group Ventures can build two warehouses along Route 230, provided the company meets a number of conditions being imposed by Londonderry Township.

Supervisors at a meeting Feb. 19 voted unanimously to grant conditional use approval for the project.

Plymouth Meeting-based Vision Group wants to build two warehouses — one that is 1,085,275 square feet and the other of 698,880 square feet — on land bordered by Route 230 and Hoffer Road, along the Conewago Township border near Ed’s Landscaping.

Among conditions Vision Group agreed to before supervisors voted to approve include Vision Group giving the township $500,000 that, according to township manager Steve Letavic, the township can use for anything it wants.

Supervisors and Letavic emphasized that Wednesday’s vote is just the first of many steps and other approvals Vision Group must obtain before construction can begin.

“This is just giving them (Vision) the opportunity to explore going forward,” Supervisor Anna Dale said, addressing public comments before the vote.

Added Letavic: “They still have to go through the entire subdivision and land development process. They still have to go and get their approvals from DEP (the Department of Environmental Protection), PennDOT and other outside agencies.”

Road improvements

About 35 residents were at the meeting, which started at 7 p.m. A presentation by Vision Group lasted until about 8:45 p.m. It discussed the project’s concept plan and how the developer is complying with township requirements for conditional use approval.

Supervisors questioned Vision Group Ventures co-managing director Jeffery Camp and the rest of the Vision Group team during the presentation, mostly regarding aspects of the plan having to do with lighting and road improvements.

Vision Group has not yet submitted land development plans for the township to consider. Vision Group has submitted a “concept plan” as part of the conditional use approval process providing some details of what the development will entail, Letavic said.

Camp has said Vision Group hopes to start building the warehouses toward the end of this fall or by March 2021.

Access in and out of the warehouses for all employees and trucks would be off Route 230-East Harrisburg Pike.

An emergency access would be provided off Hoffer Road, but this access would be gated and used only by emergency vehicles such as police, the fire department, and emergency medical services in case of an emergency, Camp said.

Most of the residents who addressed the board lived in Conewago Township.

Several of those residents, including Becky Rivera of Mill Road, requested supervisors delay granting conditional use approval until after Vision Group submits a traffic impact study to PennDOT that PennDOT will use to determine what road improvements Vision Group must make to access state-owned Route 230.

“We have seen an increase in traffic already with Amazon” delivery vehicles using Route 230 from the parking lot of the former Saturday’s Market, Rivera said. “We’re going to see accidents. We need to see what PennDOT is going to say first.”

But Vision Group will not move forward with preparing and submitting the PennDOT study and other plans, including a stormwater management plan to DEP, without getting the conditional use approval from the township.

“It’s a Catch-22,” Supervisor Ron Kopp said.

Letavic also noted whatever road improvements are required is solely up to PennDOT because 230 is state-owned. It would be “illegal” for the township to impose road improvement requirements beyond what PennDOT requires.

Letavic also noted if Vision Group decides the road improvements required by PennDOT cost too much to complete, the warehouses “won’t go forward.”

Sewer funds

Letavic also referred to the deal the township has struck with Vision and Core5 Industrial Partners in which the two developers combined have agreed to pledge $15 million toward the township’s estimated cost of $26 million to meet a DEP mandate to expand public sewer in the township.

In November, township supervisors approved plans from Core5 for a $1.2 million square-foot warehouse behind the former Saturday’s Market. Core5 also plans to develop two other sites, including the former Saturday’s Market and the northern portion of the former Lytle Farms housing development.

Potential effects of the Core5 development will be factored into the traffic impact study for the Vision Group warehouses that Vision Group will submit to PennDOT, a traffic engineer for Vision Group said during Wednesday’s presentation.

Nine intersections in all will be considered as part of the Vision Group traffic impact study, he said.

The $15 million pledge from Vision Group and Core5 is part of an agreement also including Derry Township Municipal Authority, which will extend sewer lines along Route 230 to the warehouses the two developers plan to build.

The foundation for the agreement — and for warehouses to even be considered to be developed in the 230 corridor of the township — was established in fall 2019, when Londonderry supervisors approved a zoning change expanding the C-2 commercial district to allow uses such as warehouses and distribution facilities.

“We knew that we needed to find a partner to help us” meet the cost of complying with the DEP mandate, Letavic said.

The warehouses are also needed for the township to grow its tax base, which Letavic said is essential for the township to cover the $11 million gap toward the $26 million total not funded by the pledge from the two developers.

“I’ve said it for 15 years at every public meeting I’ve been at concerning the budget — we either grow or we die on the vine. That’s never been more true than it is now. This is the best protection we can afford our residents from the increased cost (of the sewer mandates) if we find a way to create a tax base,” Letavic said, especially in light of the closure of Three Mile Island, although Letavic did not mention TMI on Wednesday night.

The plans now unfolding for growth along the 230 corridor have been in place since 1979, he said. “It would be the absolute peril of this township if we lost our partners” and left $15 million “on the table.”

Other conditions

Along with the $500,000, Vision Group is also to give the township $50,000 a year for three years with this money earmarked for improvements to township parks and parks programs.

Vision Group will also “dedicate” to township ownership two lots near the Conewago Creek  that the township can use to meet state-mandated requirements on pollution generated by stormwater runoff into creeks and waterways leading into the Chesapeake Bay.

Letavic said the township owning the two tracts is key to maximizing benefit of a $1.3 million grant-funded plan the township is undertaking to restore and reduce flooding in the Conewago Creek watershed.

Other conditions Vision Group agreed to include an anti-idling policy covering trucks on the site, conditions pertaining to noise and materials that can be stored on site, and a standard agreement between Vision Group and the township covering financial guarantees the developer is to provide.

The township can impose additional “reasonable conditions” upon Vision Group any time throughout the plan approval process, Supervisor Mel Hershey said.