Builder claims Upper Saucon ordinance on trucking terminals actually designed to exclude such facilities
Hearings on an Upper Saucon Township zoning ordinance dealing with trucking terminals started Monday with testimony blasting the ordinance that seems to allow a freight facility but actually prohibits such an operation.
About 50 people attended the hearing at Southern Lehigh Middle School. It was the first of what township solicitor Tom Dinkelacker said would likely be several hearings between the township and Kay Lehigh LLC, a branch of Allentown-based Kay Builders.
Kay launched a legal battle with the township to obtain a “curative amendment” to a township ordinance related to trucking terminals because the company is proposing to build a terminal on nearly 120 acres off Route 309 near East Valley Road. A curative amendment allows property owners to challenge a zoning ordinance and suggest a cure for problems by way of an amendment.
According to testimony, the terminal could generate up to 1,634 trucks moving in and out of the facility daily. The proposal includes three buildings of 305,250 square feet, 563,500 square feet and 654,500 square feet.
The ordinance requires terminals not be within 500 feet of structures including homes, schools, day care buildings, playgrounds and hospitals.
That’s the crux of the problem for Kay. Under questioning from Bethlehem attorney Jim Preston, who represents Kay, Jason Engelhardt, an engineer from Bethlehem-based Langan, testified that the 500 feet is not a setback or a buffer but actually a way to exclude trucking terminals.
“No warehouse could exist under this zoning law,” Engelhardt said. “The 500 feet is exclusionary from one property to another.’’
Even if the project is scaled back, Preston said it wouldn’t matter because the ordinance pertains to the entire property and the 500 feet is not a setback from one property to another.
“Even if you were to put a small warehouse within the property it still wouldn’t comply because it is a warehouse that is within 500 feet,” he said after the hearing.
Engelhardt said the threebuilding terminal would have 413 loading docks and if it worked at full capacity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week it would bring 817 trucks per day.
“So there could be 1,634 truck trips per day?” township special attorney Robert Gundlach asked.
“That would be an absolute maximum but unlikely,” Engelhardt said.
The primary entrance to the facility would be on Route 309, but plans show another access point on East Valley Road. That was described as a restricted road, but Gundlach questioned what would be in place to keep trucks from using the road.
“If you mean is there a physical barrier, no,” Engelhardt said.
The plan also calls from 1,525 parking spaces for employee cars. Gundlach asked whether if ithose spaces would always be full and would the drivers use East Valley Road.
“The number (of cars) would be significantly less than that, but it is possible,” Engelhardt said.
Residents Renee D’Amico and John Tiemann, both of East Valley Road, are part of the proceeding because their homes are adjacent to the site.
D’Amico said after the hearing her home is 20 feet from the site. “I knew it was possible something would be built there and I accepted that,” she said. “I just don’t understand why they can’t build it 500 feet away.”
A second hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept 9 at Southern Lehigh Middle School.