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Logistic centers, mini-warehouses, office parks in works in Londonderry; Lytle Farms plans change

By Laura Hayes

Posted 8/21/19

Developers in Londonderry Township plan to build logistic centers, mini-warehouses and/or office parks, including on land that was once slated for a housing development called School Heights …

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Logistic centers, mini-warehouses, office parks in works in Londonderry; Lytle Farms plans change


Developers in Londonderry Township plan to build logistic centers, mini-warehouses and/or office parks, including on land that was once slated for a housing development called School Heights Village. 

The long-discussed Lytle Farms project no longer will be all residential, under plans from the new developers.

Londonderry Township is proposing to expand and add more permitted uses to its C-2 commercial district including office parks, logistic centers and mini-warehouses.

A public hearing on the zoning ordinance amendments will held at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at the municipal building, 783 South Geyers Church Road. The Board of Supervisors could take action on the amendment that night.

In Londonderry, the C-2 district runs along most of Route 230, although there are also portions of the district along Schoolhouse Road and Vine Street.

“This [Route 230] was a commercial corridor. It was always planned for commercial development, but we haven’t updated the uses in our code. And we need to update our uses in our code to reflect the current market,” township manager Steve Letavic said in an interview Friday. 

Adding these new uses to the district would make way for 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 portion of the Lytle Farms development to the south of Route 230 would still be developed with the traditional neighborhood development, as proposed, according to Letavic.

The developers — which Letavic said are Core5, Wellington and Vision Properties — have deadlines, which is why the supervisors may take action Sept. 3.

Efforts to reach these developers were unsuccessful. As soon as action is taken, the projects will go before the township planning commission which may occur this year, Letavic said.

“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.

Londonderry has discussed bringing public sewer to parts of the township, including along Route 230, for months. 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.

“Until you have septic agreements and people that are willing to make the commitment to spend it, it’s just like every other developer that comes along, kicks the tire, looks at it and says, ‘Oh, it doesn’t fit our pro forma because it’s too expensive to get water and sewer here,’” Letavic said. “That makes these things difficult. From a public perspective, they’ll say, ‘Geez, you dropped this whole big thing on us all at once.’ Well, a lot of moving parts all became real all at the same time.”

Current C-2 uses

Under Londonderry’s municipal code, the permitted uses in the C-2 district include amusements such as theaters and bowling alleys; clubs and lodges; hotels; private schools; municipal buildings; car dealerships and service stations; medical and dental clinics and laboratories; banks, businesses and offices; personal service shops; railway and bus passenger stations; electric and telephone utility transmission and distribution facilities; restaurants; and assembly plants or sales such as for furniture repair.

But the current permitted uses couldn’t support the cost of bringing a sewer line out to Route 230 and the land wasn’t developed, Letavic said.

Letavic said the new proposed uses would be conditional, meaning the board of supervisors would have to approve it and could attach conditions to the plans.

“It’s the best way to grow and give the most amount of protection and control to the township and board of supervisors,” Letavic said.

What is being proposed

Letavic said sewer and site design and permitting will be happening at the same time. The idea is, he said, the developments will create jobs in Londonderry and give people places to live.

In 2008, the township’s zoning ordinance was amended to add a traditional neighborhood development overlay district on the future site of the School Heights Village and Lytle Farms developments.

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.

The land was transferred to Tuck-A-Way II LLC in 2009 for $4.6 million, and Tuck-A-Way still has the deed, according to the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds.

According to Letavic, the land to the south of Route 230 will be developed by Wellington and will still be the traditional neighborhood development.

To the north of Route 230, Letavic said Core5 is proposing a logistics center.

Core5 will also develop the former School Heights Village development behind Saturday’s Market. The development could now be mini-warehouses, a logistics center or an office park, Letavic said.

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.

Another logistics center is being proposed behind Ed’s Landscaping, Letavic said. He said Vision Properties is the proposed developer, and it has the land under agreement.

“They said they’re not sure if it’s going to be just a logistics center or if it’s going to be a logistics center business park. It could be a combination in here,” he said.

According to the public hearing notice, 43 properties along Route 230 — zoned industrial, agricultural and residential — would be rezoned to C-2 commercial.

The effected properties include the northern portion of the Lytle Farms project; land south of Route 283 and between Mill and Geyers Church roads; property south of Route 230, but north of Foxianna Road and west of Schoolhouse Road; and land on either side of Route 230 bordered by Hertzler Road to the west and the township line to the east.

At the same time, the township is working on bringing public sewer — and maybe public water, too — to a development called Londonderry Estates and applying for a Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority grant and loan to fund it. The PennVEST grant could cover up to 20 percent of the project, and the rest would be funded through the loan.

Township solicitors are working on developing an inter-municipal agreement between Londonderry and Derry Township Municipal Authority. According to Letavic, from that agreement and the PennVEST application, the township will have a “better idea of what are the individual costs for each household.”

The connection from the sewer line to the house is the homeowner’s responsibility, Letavic said, and could cost from $14,000 to $18,000. He’s working to see if there’s funding available for low interest loans to help make it more affordable.

Why is this happening?

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.

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

“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 said.

While the township has been able to get grants, its tax base hasn’t grown, Letavic said. The township needs to grow, he said.

The three developers have committed $15 million to bring public sewer to Route 230 which will bring a public sewer pipe from Derry Township Municipal Authority’s Southwest Water Treatment Facility to the entirety of Route 230.

Capacity will be built in the line for other areas slated to hook onto the public sewer system.

Letavic said the township has “worked very hard” over the past 14 years to find developers who wanted to develop in Londonderry.

The traditional neighborhood developers were ready to go in 2008 when the housing market crashed, Letavic said.

“Since that time, I worked extremely hard to go out, network, contact people, talk to people, try to find responsible builders that will come invest in our township. So we don’t wait for them. We go after them because if you wait, you won’t get them. We don’t have anything to offer them. They can go anywhere else where there’s already public water and sewer and start,” Letavic said.