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What kind of Londonderry Township do residents want?: Editorial

Posted 8/28/19

There are two very important meetings being held Sept. 3 at the Londonderry Township Municipal Building, 783 S. Geyers Church Road.

If you are at all concerned about the future of the township, we …

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What kind of Londonderry Township do residents want?: Editorial

Posted

There are two very important meetings being held Sept. 3 at the Londonderry Township Municipal Building, 783 S. Geyers Church Road.

If you are at all concerned about the future of the township, we urge you to attend them.

The first, at 7 p.m., is a public hearing on zoning ordinance amendments that will expand and add more permitted uses to the township’s C-2 commercial district.

That would including the construction of office parks, logistic centers and mini-warehouses. Such a change to zoning was recommended Monday night by the township’s planning commission, despite the fact that Chairman Bruce Grossman said that “there’s sort of a sense of a gun to our head” to get the changes done quickly.

The potential for this growth is real. Discussions are already in high gear.

They include developing a logistics center on the northern part of the proposed Lytle Farms development; mini-warehouses, a logistics center, or an office park on the formerly proposed School Heights Village housing development behind Saturday’s Market; and a business park and/or a logistics center on land behind Ed’s Landscaping off Route 230 in the southeast corner of the township.

The size and scope of these projects have not been fully announced.

The Lytle Farms housing development was to be on about 340 acres on either side of Route 230 entering the township from Middletown. The development was to include 1,600 residences including single-family homes, condos, townhomes, apartments and commercial space, offices, community and recreation area and space for an elementary school.

That number of residences will be significantly reduced with the change in plans.

Originally, School Heights Village, about 200 acres behind Saturday’s Market, was going to be the site of 986 residences, including single-family homes, townhomes, apartments, and commercial spaces. Now, preliminary plans apparently don’t call for any residences to be built.

All of this action that seemingly has come out of nowhere has to do with sewers.

Municipalities are required to develop a sewage facilities plan under the 1966 Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act, known as Act 537. The township’s plan calls for public sewer to be brought into specific areas of the township, including the Londonderry Estates development and Sewer Districts No. 2 and 3 where Lytle Farms and School Heights Village were proposed to be built.

The Route 230 corridor must have operational sewer by 2026. A development in the northeast part of the township, Londonderry Estates, must have service by 2021.

Township manager Steve Letavic estimated that bringing public sewer to the entire 230 corridor — not just Lytle Farms and School Heights Village — would cost $26 million.

On its website, the township states it can’t afford to construct the Route 230 sewer line because the general fund budget is approximately $2.2 million and the debt service on the line would be as much as general fund budget.

This would mean real estate taxes would increase by about $1,200 for a home assessed at $100,000, which the township said is an unfair approach because not all residents taxed would be connected to the public sewer system.

“What I’m trying to do is find a way to partner with developers so that our residents don’t get all the cost,” Letavic told the board of supervisors at a recent meeting.

In other words, the developers will foot a huge part of the sewer bill instead of residents.

For example: Core5 and Vision Group, two of the developers, plan on investing $15 million to install sewer lines and a pump station from Hoffer Road to the connection to the Derry Township Municipal Authority’s Southwest Water Treatment Facility and to provide an upfront capacity reservation fee to DTMA.

Earlier this month, Letavic announced that the township received a letter from Derry Township Municipal Authority, saying it was willing to serve the township’s sewer needs.

Residents still would be on the hook to connect from the sewer line to the house — a cost that could be $14,000 to $18,000 for a lateral line connection, or $5,000 to $10,000 for a gravity connection.

But back to the matter at hand, the zoning changes.

We have concerns.

This entire discussion in regard to the three developers involved in these preliminary plans came very much out of the blue. There has been no discussion about these changes before the full board in recent memory, although the planning commission did discuss the issue in July.

“I know people are going to say, ‘Gee, that seems fast.’ I get it. Optically, it looks bad, but it took us two years to get a sewer agreement with sewer providers … The difficulty with some of these projects is they’re never real until they’re real,” Letavic said.

So what if a huge outpouring of residents oppose the zoning changes, that will change the nature of the township significantly to much more of an industrial feel?

It’s possible, as we previously stated, that Londonderry residents will be assessed for the $26 million project.

That would be a tough choice for many residents to make. Have an industrial corridor cutting through the center of the township, or pay for a huge project out of pocket.

And let’s not forget the safety on Route 230. Letavic told the Press & Journal that developers will have to meet all Pennsylvania Department of Transportation requirements, and PennDOT will make that decision based upon certain studies that they will require of the developers. But let’s face it: Parts of Route 230 are not that safe now. This would have a huge impact.

Think about the increased traffic not only on Tollhouse Road as trucks go from these developments to Route 283, but what about traffic through Middletown from the Lytle Farms industrial growth?

We don’t necessarily oppose any of these projects. It’s really up to the residents as to what should happen next. That’s why attending these Sept. 3 meetings is vital.

These ideas need to be fully vetted, and residents must take this opportunity to have their say.

Read our stories. We are doing our best to explain the complicated logistics that are happening. Call your supervisors. Ask them questions. Be informed. The township phone number is 717-944-1803.

And, one last time, we urge you to attend Sept. 3.

We are not overstating the fact that the future of Londonderry Township will in no small part be determined that day.