Hanover Township: Zoners approve flex buildings
Before a standing-room only crowd of more than 70 residents, Hanover Township's Zoning Hearing Board has paved the way for two "flex" buildings on the north side of Jaindl Boulevard.
Following a Sept. 27 hearing, zoners unanimously decided to grant dimensional variances for this $25 million project. They did so despite complaints about truck traffic and noise from members of a Traditions of America residential community for older, active adults, located directly across the street.
Located on a 49-acre tract owned by David Jaindl, the property is currently under agreement of sale with Griffin Land, a Connecticut-based land development company that has recently expanded into the Lehigh Valley. It has properties both in Upper Macungie and Bethlehem townships. According to owner David Jaindl, Griffin is "the most neighbor-sensitive developer I could find for the property."
In fact, that afternoon, Griffin President Michael Gamzon met with Traditions residents, who asked him to reconfigure his plans so that truck access to the site is from Route 512 or Township Line Road, instead of Jaindl Boulevard. Gamzon told zoners he's postponing a scheduled Planning Commission presentation, scheduled for October, to see if the plans can be revised. He also vowed to meet with residents again.
Last month, Gamzon told supervisors that each building would produce approximately 200 jobs. That figure could go up or down, depending on the tenants attracted. At this juncture, no tenant has been identified.
"Flex" buildings, as Gamzon explained, are structures that can serve multiple commercial purposes, from warehouses to light industrial to even office space. These are permitted uses in Hanover's planned industrial business district, where they've been proposed.
Gamzon testified that he hoped to attract up to four tenants for each of the buildings, but that Griffin would remain the owner and manager at the site.
Though these are all permitted uses, a variance was necessary because Griffin was proposing to place all the doors and truck bays along just one side, the rear, of each building, away from Traditions. Under Hanover's zoning ordinance, these can only be placed along 30 percent of each of the four sides of a building. This would allow for 76 doors and truck bays along a proposed 1050-foot by 260-foot building, and for 74 doors along the 1000-foot by 260-foot building.
Griffin will use less door space – 65 (front building) and 61 (rear building) – than allowed under the zoning ordinance. But concentrating them on the rear side, away from the residents, would exceed the 30 percent maximum for door space along each side.
Project Engineer Kevin Horvath explained that it made sense to place all the bays and doors along one side. First, it takes advantage of the topography of the area, which drops 60 feet from the front to the rear of the property. Second, it discourages use as a trucking terminal, where double-sided loading (front and rear) is the norm. Third, and most importantly, it provides a buffer for Traditionsresidents across the street.
Because of the downward slope of the property, Horvath told zoners that the visual impact of the site will be minimal. From the Traditions development, Horvath said only the tops of the buildings will be visible.
Some Traditions neighbors are opposed to any commercial development in their neighborhood. Anthony Scaramuzzino complained that after he moved here from New York City, "You put a residential neighborhood in the middle of what you could call Times Square." He later added, "We got money and we got votes and we're going to use both."
He also sounded off on the truck traffic that already exists along Jaindl Boulevard, comparing it to Route I-78.
"We can't leave a window open at night," he grumbled.
Matthew Ford moved in from New Jersey, which he called the Concrete State.
"I don't want to see a warehouse or a trucking facility," he flatly stated.
Mary Jane Landrieu echoed those concerns, denouncing the increased truck traffic.
"You're asking for a disaster to happen," she warned.
Other Traditions residents seemed satisfied by the presentation.
Nick Tibberts asked, "Why do you even need a variance for this cosmetic change? It seems to me to be a waste of time."
Joyce Camm added, "I love where I live. The main concern is the entranceway."
Like Camm, Rosemary Douglas said, "I love it here. It is the best decision of my life."
While zoners deliberated, David Jaindl explained why he planned a residential community next to a planned industrial business district.
"It's smart growth," he explained. "Live here, work here, shop here."
Now that Griffin Land has the variances, the next step in this process is approaching the Planning Commission. Gamzon predicted that plans will probably be ready in time for a meeting in November.
Griffin is represented by Attorney Greg Davis of Saul Ewing.
Planner Vincent Horvath must have been proud to see his son, Kevin, testify as an expert witness. But he had to recuse himself and was replaced by alternate Joseph Bednarik.