Bethlehem Township--Big Box distribution site considered
One of Bethlehem Township’s most heavily traveled roads may soon be getting even more traffic. Truck traffic, too.
Plans to develop the last remaining commercial site along Brodhead Road were considered by the Bethlehem Township Planning Commission at its Jan. 23 meeting. The land is owned by Brodhead Holdings, L.P., and is a 37-acre tract along the south side of Brodhead Road and north side of Route 22. It was originally slotted as a Wal-Mart, but current plans are for a 513,520 square-foot distribution center, a multi-tenant building with lots of room for trucks. The Planning Commissioners agreed to place the project in administrative review. Prominent land use attorney Blake Marles said the goal is to have a plan approved in March so that construction can begin in June.
Brodhead Holdings also owns a separate tract between the railroad and Route 191, but there were no plans presented to develop that piece.
Can Brodhead Road, currently in need of repaving as a result of heavy tuck traffic from the nearby industrial park, handle the load?
“Brodhead Road is a problem on a good day,” said Dale Colver, a Palmer Township Supervisor who owns the Coughlin office building located directly across the street from the planned development. He’s especially concerned for his tenants that one of the two entrances into this distribution center is aligned with their driveway on the other side of the street. He also worries that he could be assessed for some of the streetscape improvements.
Marles countered that current plans call for the developer to make the improvements itself.
But the access point aligned with the driveway to the Coughlin building, located along a steep hill going along Brodhead Road, sparked concerns. Engineers pointed out there is a clear sight triangle at both access points. In addition, Brodhead Holdings plans to build a left turn lane for tractor trailer traffic But is that enough?
Colver said truck traffic already stacks at that location and is concerned that in the winter, it will be a problem.
Resident Barry Roth said a truck in the left lane will be at a dead stop on a hill with an 8 precent grade, and will have difficulty tuning. He worries that traffic coming from the opposite direction will run into trucks as they turn.
Township engineer Anthony Tallarida agreed that, “It’s a very challenged road and that trucks need a lot of space to stop and start.” Planners have suggested that one of the access points be relocated closer to Fritch Road.
Another concern was the railroad crossing on Brodhead Road, though both Marles and solicitor Wendy Nicolosi said they were doubtful that Norfolk and Southern would do anything to improve safety.
Planning Director Nathan Jones had a suggestion that everyone seemed to like. Brodhead Road has the most transit riders of any location in Bethlehem Township. He suggested that part of the planning include a bus shelter to protect employees waiting for a bus in inclement weather.
One legal concern is whether the development must also comply with the requirements of an overlay zoning district at that site. Marles said No, and Nicolosi said Yes. Marles plans to research that matter to see if there is any case law on point.
One of the people with Brodhead Holdings is developer Lew Ronca.