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Vote on D&H request to rezone Jednota property could come March 6; few speak at public hearing

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/21/19

Snow didn’t stop Lower Swatara Township residents from attending Wednesday’s public hearing regarding rezoning part of  the Jednota property to allow D&H Distributing to build …

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Vote on D&H request to rezone Jednota property could come March 6; few speak at public hearing

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Snow didn’t stop Lower Swatara Township residents from attending Wednesday’s public hearing regarding rezoning part of  the Jednota property to allow D&H Distributing to build two warehouses.

About 20 people — including D&H staff and township residents — attended the hearing, though only four spoke.

D&H plans to purchase 275.87 acres of the Jednota property, which is located to the west of the Airport Connector Road and north and south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

D&H is asking the commissioners to approve rezoning most — but not all — of the land to industrial park. The land has a mix of zoning — residential urban to the north of the turnpike and north of Rosedale Avenue, and a mixture of industrial park limited and office park to the south of Rosedale.

“I’m totally in favor of it,” resident Scott Cooper said. “I think a family-owned business that’s been here for 100 years with lighter truck traffic is excellent. I’m in favor of it.”

There will be another chance to voice opinions on the proposed rezoning at 6 p.m. March 6 at 1499 Spring Garden Drive. According to Lower Swatara Planning & Zoning Coordinator Ann Hursh, the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners could vote on the rezoning at its March 6 meeting.

D&H Co-President Dan Schwab said they have outgrown their distribution center on Katie Court in Susquehanna Township. D&H also recently announced that they were moving their headquarters to Lower Paxton Township.

According to Schwab, the company has about 200 employees in the warehouse on Katie Court. He said they anticipate adding another 50 employees in the first year, and growing to 350 to 400 employees by year five, with the Jednota move.

D&H’s attorney Charles Courtney noted that the property is already zoned for “intense development.”

“It’s really not about whether the property gets developed intensely. The question really is, ‘How does the property get developed?’” Courtney said.

D&H is proposing to rezone all but 52 acres south of the turnpike to industrial park and the land north of the turnpike.

The 52 acres that they are not planning on rezoning is located along Stoner Drive to the north of Rosedale currently zoned residential urban and land along Whitehouse Lane to the south of Rosedale zoned office park. The land would act as a buffer on the western portion of the property. Courtney said they proposed to permanently deed-restrict the buffer so that it remains undeveloped.

Development would take place in the eastern part of the property near the Airport Connector.

According to D&H’s engineer Ron Secary, the distribution facility to the north would be about 655,000 square feet with loading docks on either side of the building and room for a 182,000-square-foot expansion. The hub would be accessed through two driveways off Rosedale Avenue.

A second warehouse to the south of Rosedale would be about 400,000 square feet and access off Rosedale. Secary said the building could be leased to a third party until D&H needed it.

D&H had provided two draft plans for developing the land to the south of Rosedale, and the difference was whether they would keep the office building now occupied by Piedmont Airlines and Conduent, a business process services company.

Courtney said they recently got confirmation that both would make commitments “in the 10-year range” to the building. If they had demolished the office building, then the second warehouse would have been larger.

D&H also is proposing to improve Rosedale Avenue and address stormwater issues.

Of the four people who spoke, two were township residents who work at D&H.

One, Richard Woodhead, noted that with the company being loyal to the area for years, the township should be loyal in return. Resident and employee Kathy Drebot added that she was happy to work for D&H.

Resident Don Wagner asked how the company dealt with unscheduled trucks. Schwab said all of their trucks are scheduled, and there would be places for trucks to park if they arrive early or late.

“We really have a rare and unique opportunity to shape the development of this project to yield a result that is much better, I think, than you could get under current zoning,” Courtney said. “When I say much better, I don’t mean much better just for D&H — I mean for the township, for its taxpayers and for neighbors and residents in the area of the property.”

D&H is a technology distributor with more than $4 billion in revenue in 2018.