Of­fi­cials OK North East Gate­way pre­lim­i­nary plan

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By MAR­CUS DIETERLE mdi­[email protected]­cil­whig.com

— De­vel­op­ers are one step closer to build­ing a new cross-dock in­dus­trial ware­house at the for­mer Nazarene Camp prop­erty af­ter the town plan­ning com­mis­sion ap­proved a pre­lim­i­nary site plan for the project Tuesday night.

Tram­mell Crow Com­pany, the developer be­hind the Ama­zon dis­tri­bu­tion site at the Prin­ci­pio Busi­ness Park, is propos­ing to build a 716,490-square-foot in­dus­trial ware­house on the 60-acre prop­erty off of Route 272.

North East Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Melissa Cook-McKen­zie told the Whig that the pro­posed ware­house would cre­ate jobs, bring in more tax rev­enue for the town, and im­prove the ap­pear­ance of the for­mer Chris­tian camp as peo­ple head into down­town North East from Route 272.

“It’s not the most at­trac­tive par­cel as you’re com­ing into town. So as far as aes­thet­ics, it’ll im­prove aes­thet­ics com­ing into town,” she said.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion unan­i­mously ap­proved the plans so long as three con­di­tions are met: that a land­scape ar­chi­tect ver­i­fies a de­ci­sion to waive a tree sur­vey is in com­pli­ance with the high­way cor­ri­dor district; the Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proves the site plan af­ter re­view; and the pre­lim­i­nary for­est con­ser­va­tion plan is ap­proved.

Tram­mell Crow will present a fi­nal site plan for the project at the plan­ning com­mis­sion’s March 5 meet­ing. If the plan gains the com­mis­sion’s ap­proval and devel­op­ment goes as planned, the de­vel­op­ers are slated to break ground in April and com­plete the project by the end of the year, ac­cord­ing to Tram­mell Crow Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Jeff Hol­comb.

For the bet­ter part of a cen­tury, the Philadel­phia District Church of the Nazarene ran a Chris­tian camp on the prop­erty. But af­ter nearly 90 years, the church closed the camp’s gates in 2007.

NORTH EAST

North East Com­mons LLC bought the land from the church in 2008 with hopes of trans­form­ing the prop­erty into a 300,000-square-foot shop­ping cen­ter. But af­ter the eco­nomic re­ces­sion hit and re­tail­ers pulled out, those plans were put on hold.

Caves Val­ley Part­ners, which is a man­ag­ing part­ner of North East Com­mons LLC, reignited plans for the prop­erty in 2016 with a pro­posal for a cross-dock ware­house. Tram­mell Crow came onto the scene in 2018 as the even­tual developer of the North East Gate­way project.

Bor­dered by the CSX Rail­road and Route 272, and sit­u­ated near U.S. Route 40 and an In­ter­state 95 in­ter­change, the lo­ca­tion would pro­vide com­mer­cial truck traf­fic with easy ac­cess to whatever com­pany ends up oc­cu­py­ing the ware­house.

Speak­ing with town of­fi­cials Tuesday was Amy DiPi­etro, a prin­ci­pal with Mor­ris & Ritchie As­so­ciates Inc., a de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing firm work­ing with Tram­mell Crow.

DiPi­etro said the prop­erty will be split into four parcels: one main lot mea­sur­ing about 50 acres that would hold the ware­house and all other unas­signed ar­eas of the site; two lots, to­gether mea­sur­ing ap­prox­i­mately 4 acres, that Caves Val­ley Part­ners would re­tain for com­mer­cial use; and a fourth lot at a lit­tle over half an acre that would deeded to the town.

The ware­house would have 185-foot truck courts along the east and west sides of the prop­erty, as well as 234 trailer drops and 352 car park­ing spa­ces for em­ploy­ees.

Tram­mell Crow plans to ter­mi­nate Nazarene Camp Road in a cul-de-sac and build a new road called Gate­way Drive. The new road, which would pro­vide ac­cess to res­i­dences west of the ware­house, would run along the western prop­erty line and come out at an in­ter­sec­tion across from Rogers Road.

Un­der those plans, the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion would need to ap­prove the con­struc­tion of a traf­fic sig­nal at that pro­posed in­ter­sec­tion.

Should the SHA ap­prove that change, DiPi­etro es­ti­mated there would be eight months be­tween the clo­sure of Nazarene Camp Road and the open­ing of Gate­way Drive. Dur­ing that in­terim pe­riod, she said res­i­dents along Les­lie Road would con­tinue to be able to ac­cess their prop­er­ties through a de­tour around the con­struc­tion area.

The de­vel­op­ers are also propos­ing plant­ing trees and other plants along Gate­way Drive to aid re­for­esta­tion ef­forts, and to act as a sound and vis­ual buf­fer be­tween the ware­house and the sur­round­ing res­i­den­tial area.

Some com­mu­nity mem­bers be A pre­lim­i­nary site plan for the pro­posed in­dus­trial ware­house on the for­mer Nazarene Camp prop­erty shows the lot where the build­ing would sit. Tram­mell Crow Com­pany, the de­vel­op­ers for the project, pro­pose ending Nazarene Camp Road in a culde-sac and cre­at­ing a new road called Gate­way Drive to wrap around the western prop­erty line (bot­tom of the schematic) and let out across from Rogers Road (top right of the schematic).

ex­pressed their con­cerns about the pro­posed ware­house’s po­ten­tial ef­fects on traf­fic in the area at the Tuesday meet­ing.

Pam Curry lives in Ris­ing Sun, but she came to the meet­ing to rep­re­sent her par­ents, Tom and Muriel Wet­zel, who live on North East Road di­rectly across from the camp­ground. She told the com­mis­sion that her par­ents are both over 80 years old and have dif­fi­culty safely turn­ing onto Route 272.

“On a good day, it’s im­pos­si­ble to come out of their drive­way. Ab­so­lutely im­pos­si­ble. Some­times they’ll sit there for five or 10 min­utes,” she said.

Curry, who works in an emergency room, said that when she vis­its her par­ents, she of­ten hears crashes and has to rush to the road to as­sist any po­ten­tial vic­tims in the accidents.

“I’m just afraid some­day, when I go up to help some­body, there’s go­ing to be a dead body in a car. The road is that bad,” she said.

North East res­i­dent Stephen Stiles also lives across from Nazarene Camp Road. When he is try­ing to drive to­ward down­town North East and he isn’t able to turn left, Stiles said he turns right and makes a U-turn at the park and ride near the Hol­i­day Inn

Ex­press and Suites in or­der to get where he is go­ing.“I am not here to fight this cross dock thing,” he said. “Do I wish it wasn’t go­ing in there? Sure I do. But I am fight­ing for my abil­ity to get in and out of my prop­erty.”

Curry’s sis­ter, Sandi Sands, said she doesn’t think the road can ac­com­mo­date large trac­tor-trail­ers turn­ing on and off of Route 272, even with the pro­posed traf­fic sig­nal across from Rogers Road.

“I just feel like these guys (Tram­mell Crow) might re­gret putting that dock in there, be­cause if there’s as many accidents as there are on 272 and these trucks are go­ing to be stuck get­ting up to I-95, it’s go­ing to be ter­ri­ble for even them to have a busi­ness there un­less some­thing is done to that road,” Sands said.

Mark Dobbins, chair­man of the plan­ning com­mis­sion, said that while the pro­posed ware­house would see large trac­tor-trail­ers, over­all it would bring in fewer ve­hi­cles than com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ments that have been pro­posed for the site in the past.

“The ve­hi­cle types are dif­fer­ent, but the num­bers of ve­hi­cles are less with this type of fa­cil­ity than it would have been with the pre­vi­ously pro­posed re­tail site,” Dobbins said.

Plan­ning com­mis­sion mem­ber Michael Nair said that while a traf­fic light likely will not im­prove those res­i­dents’ abil­ity to turn left onto south­bound Route 272, it could act as a buf­fer to al­low them to turn right more eas­ily onto north­bound Route 272.

Cook-McKen­zie said she hears com­mu­nity mem­bers’ con­cerns and that she and her col­leagues will do whatever they can to con­nect those in­di­vid­u­als with the ap­pro­pri­ate par­ties at SHA. But she said traf­fic along Route 272 is out of the town’s ju­ris­dic­tion be­cause the road is a state high­way.

She added that the planned I-95 in­ter­change at Belvidere Road will likely di­vert a lot of traf­fic cur­rently com­ing from I-95 onto Route 272 past those res­i­dents’ homes, and shift that traf­fic to U.S. Route 40.

The Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity will be hold­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posed Belvidere in­ter­change from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Perryville Com­mu­nity Fire Com­pany, lo­cated at 920 Prin­ci­pio Fur­nace Road in Perryville. The meet­ing would be post­poned to Jan. 24 in case Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools are closed due to snow.

Curry also asked what will hap­pen to the taber­na­cle that sits on the prop­erty.

In an interview with the Whig, Cook-McKen­zie ex­plained that when some­one sub­mits a per­mit to the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers, the corps then sends the per­mit to other agen­cies for com­ment.

Years ago, when Caves Val­ley Part­ners sub­mit­ted their per­mit for the project, the Mary­land His­toric Trust com­mented that the taber­na­cle had his­toric fea­tures. In a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment, or MOA, with the his­toric trust, Caves Val­ley Part­ners agreed to move the taber­na­cle off site as part of the project, ac­cord­ing to Cook-McKen­zie.

How­ever, Cook-McKen­zie said that orig­i­nal MOA has since ex­pired. Al­though the fu­ture of the taber­na­cle will be ad­dressed in a new MOA, what that fu­ture will look like ex­actly is not fi­nal­ized, she said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY MAR­CUS DIETERLE

Ris­ing Sun res­i­dent Pam Curry, rep­re­sent­ing her par­ents who live on North East Road di­rectly across from the camp­ground, says the road is dan­ger­ous as it is and can­not han­dle in­creased traf­fic from the trac­tor-trail­ers that would be en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing the pro­posed ware­house.

IM­AGE COUR­TESY OF TOWN OF NORTH EAST

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