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D&H gets zoning change approval from Lower Swatara, paving way for two warehouses

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 3/7/19

D&H Distributing took a huge step toward building two warehouses on the Jednota property on Wednesday when the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to rezone a portion of the …

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D&H gets zoning change approval from Lower Swatara, paving way for two warehouses

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D&H Distributing took a huge step toward building two warehouses on the Jednota property on Wednesday when the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to rezone a portion of the land.

Although the Board of Commissioners still needs to review and then approve a land development plan, D&H anticipates breaking ground on the project during the first quarter of 2020.

D&H Distributing, a technology distributor with nearly $4 billion in revenue, plans to purchase 275.87 acres of the Jednota property owned by the First Catholic Slovak Union to the west of the Airport Connector Road and north and south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

A second hearing on the rezoning was held March 6. About 25 people, including D&H representatives and staff and township residents, attended the hearing.

Eight people spoke — some voicing their support and others expressing concern about flooding, safety and pollution.

“I want to ask you all to care more about the quality of our township,” said Sharon Linta, who said she’s a lifelong township resident. “It’s a beautiful place, but it’s becoming more and more developed with these warehouses everywhere. It’s not the place I grew up with, and it’s becoming uglier and less of a place that I would want to be.”

On the other hand, resident Scott Cooper praised D&H’s presentation, saying it would be good for employment and the tax base.

“I also think it’s important that it’s a local company with local family ownership,” Cooper said.

The land currently has a mix of zoning. To the north of the turnpike, the land is zoned residential urban. The land between the turnpike and Rosedale Avenue is zoned residential urban. D&H asked to rezone most of this area to industrial park.

The tract to the south of Rosedale is a mix of industrial park limited and office park.

All of the industrial park limited land will be rezoned to industrial park.

The company is not asking to rezone the land north of the turnpike or about 52 acres on the western portion of the tract.

As is, the zoning districts permit intense development, said D&H’s attorney Charles Courtney.

The 52 acres would act as a buffer, and D&H is proposing to deed-restrict the land to remain undeveloped.

Commissioner Ron Paul asked how permanent the deed restriction would be. Solicitor Peter Henninger responded that it would become more permanent at the land development stage.

“When we say permanent, we mean forever. It’s something that we’re willing to dedicate to the township, we’re willing to give it to a conservancy with that preservation easement, or if no one else wanted it, we would have a note on the plan and a deed restriction that would make that permanent and it couldn’t be changed without the township’s consent,” Courtney said.

D&H is proposing to build a warehouse on each side of Rosedale. The warehouse to the north would be about 655,000 square feet, and the warehouse to the south would be about 400,000 square feet. D&H staff has proposed leasing the second warehouse to a third party “compatible with D&H’s operations,” according to Courtney, until they needed it.

They plan to maintain an office building currently occupied by Piedmont Airlines and Conduent, a business process services company. Additionally, D&H plans to grant an easement to the First Catholic Slovak Union to maintain its memorial along Rosedale, though part of the wall may be disturbed to create one of the two accesses to the facility off Rosedale.

Also, D&H is proposing traffic improvements including banning trucks from driving to the west of the facility on Rosedale and on White House Lane. They also proposed improving Rosedale and the intersection of Rosedale and Meade Avenue.

Paul said there would be more vehicles driving on Rosedale and White House Lane, adding that it might require more improvements on the roads.

Vice President Todd Truntz asked how many employees would drive on Rosedale.

Craig Mellott, a traffic engineer for Traffic Planning and Design Inc., hired by D&H, said they can’t control traffic from passenger vehicles, adding that they would do a formal transportation impact study as part of the land development plan.

“It’s going to be less traffic than if it was developed with houses,” or other uses, Mellott said.

Courtney said they planned on reducing the rate and volume of stormwater runoff to the area.

Steve Hickoff, who lives in Jednota Flats, said the biggest problem in the flats is once the water comes to their area, there’s only a small outlet for it to get out and it backs up.

“It seems to me if you’re going to put these huge buildings up there, plus all of this macadam and blacktop, and you’re going to take away all that drainage area that was there now and replace it with all of that stuff, I can’t see any way that’s going to help our situation down at the bottom of the hill,” Hickoff said.

Courtney said they were willing to work with the township to come up with a solution to help provide relief to the area.

When Paul moved to rezone the land, he emphasized the stormwater needs, asking them to do more than the minimum requirement.

“You could be unique, and you could be a hero in this township,” Paul said.