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D&H warehouse plan at Jednota gets initial OK; truck traffic concerns planning commission

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 12/21/18

D&H Distributing’s plan to rezone parts of the Jednota property, which would allow it to build two warehouses on the tract, is moving on to the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners.

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D&H warehouse plan at Jednota gets initial OK; truck traffic concerns planning commission

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D&H Distributing’s plan to rezone parts of the Jednota property, which would allow it to build two warehouses on the tract, is moving on to the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners.

The Lower Swatara Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the zoning amendment to the commissioners during its meeting Thursday. Commission member Dennis Fausey was absent.

D&H wants some of the property rezoned from a mix of industrial park limited and residential urban to industrial park.

The Dauphin County Planning Commission already approved the plan. It is uncertain when the full board of commissioners will vote on it.

Much of the discussion Thursday centered around concerns about traffic, especially the increase in truck traffic.

“I thought you had a good presentation tonight. You addressed I think a lot of the issues. You came forward in a candid way and really tried to openly resolve the problems,” commission member Kimber Latsha said.

The 300-acre site known as the Jednota property is owned by the First Catholic Slovak Union. D&H plans to purchase 275.87 acres to the west of the Airport Connector Road and north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and both north and south of Rosedale Avenue.

D&H is a technology distributor based in Harrisburg with more than $4 billion in revenue in 2018. Their Mid-Atlantic distribution hub is located on Katie Court.

D&H Distributing Co-President Michael Schwab said the company is committed to Dauphin County, but it has outgrown its current distribution center. He said they found buildings in Allentown and Carlisle, but they didn’t want to displace their workers.

“Our goal is to find a site that we can develop to build a large enough facility that we can be there 20, 30 years and make it within a short distance from our current facility so that the employees can continue on as employee co-owners of the organization,” Schwab said.

The First Catholic Slovak Union would retain 21.39 acres to the east of the Airport Connector Road and its memorial on Rosedale Avenue.

On the tracts on either side of Rosedale Avenue, D&H is proposing to build two distribution facilities — one 655,200-square-foot center to the north of Rosedale and a second either hub of 400,000 or 551,000 square feet to the south depending on whether they keep an office building located on the site.

But the purchase is contingent on rezoning a majority of the would-be developed land south of the turnpike to industrial park.

There are 202.7 acres south of the turnpike. Currently, the land is a mix of different zonings — the land north of Rosedale is residential-urban and the land south is a mix of industrial park limited and office park. D&H is proposing to rezone the land to industrial park.

However, the whole property would not be rezoned to industrial park. The 73.17 acres to the north of the turnpike would remain zoned residential urban. D&H’S attorney Charles Courtney said they didn’t have plans to residentially develop the land, but could see it happening in the future.

Additionally, about 52 acres to the west of the future distribution hub would be preserved in its current state and act as a buffer between the hub and the residences to the west, according to Courtney.

The planning commission members had several concerns about truck traffic, particularly what the truck traffic would be if the hub to the south of Rosedale was leased to a third party.

“Rosedale’s a converted cow path,” commission member Eric Breon said. “The road’s in terrible condition going west of the site. It’s brutal. White House Lane — a truck on that road, can’t even imagine.”

According to D&H’s presentation, during the peak season, 42 trucks come in and out of the facility on a daily basis. They estimated that it would increase to about 46 daily trucks during peak season by year five. Schwab said a majority of the trucks are single tractor-trailers.

He noted that these were future truck projections based only on the new 655,200-square-foot hub north of Rosedale, not the second hub south of Rosedale, which D&H is planning on leasing to a third party until they need it. He said they are not currently leasing any of their facilities to a third party.

Schwab estimated that when D&H occupies the second hub, it would generate an additional four trucks daily. He said it was hard to say what the truck count would be if the hub was leased to a third party.

“We wouldn’t be looking to bring in somebody that would be disruptive because we’re their neighbor and we think of this as our neighborhood,” Schwab said.

D&H said they try to completely fill their trucks. Breon estimated that their truck count might be light, arguing that other companies aren’t as conscientious.

“Not everyone is D&H,” he said. “Other companies use less than a full truck.

Courtney said when they do a traffic study, they will be conservative and use figures from a typical logistics company. 

D&H did a transportation impact study, and their traffic engineer, Craig Mellott, had several ideas to improve the roads but also direct truck traffic eastbound on Rosedale Avenue, down Meade Avenue and onto Route 230.

Mellott suggested building the driveways to impede truck drivers from going west on Rosedale, have signs reading “No Trucks,” and have the township adopt an ordinance prohibiting trucks on Rosedale Avenue to White House Lane and on the stretch of White House Lane from Route 230 to Rosedale.

If trucks mistakenly turn to go westbound on Rosedale, Mellott proposed constructing an area — similar to a cul-de-sac — where trucks can turn around.

D&H is also interested in improving Rosedale Avenue and potentially adding traffic signals.

Breon said using D&H’s numbers, he figured that there would be about 740 car trips to the facility a day, and they might use Rosedale and White House.

“I’m not trying to get you to improve every road in this part of the township. But, again, those roads are dicey today, and that’s just with podunk township traffic on it, not counting another 700 trips by employees and your odd lost truck,” Breon said.

Mellott said some cars may do that, but he added that most of the traffic from the current office building goes east, not west on Rosedale.