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Cumru planners table recommendation on banning warehouses on Route 10 plot

A 171-acre plot tucked into the intersection of Route 10 and Freemansville Road in Cumru Township has become a battleground amid controversial plans to place a 739,000-square-foot warehouse on the site.

The Cumru Township Planning Commission has declined to enter the fray, tabling a recommendation on a proposal by the township commissioners to rezone the plot in a way that would bar warehouses and other large industrial buildings on the site.

That decision Monday followed a discussion during which some planners said they supported rezoning the lot, while others appeared to oppose the change.

The commissioners’ proposal to rezone away warehouse permissions on the site came about after Commissioners Greg Miller and Andy Donnell were elected in November on a platform of opposing warehouses.

Their opposition is shared by a group of residents living in Flying Hills, which is next to the warehouse lot, as well as Penske, which is headquartered nearby off Route 10.

Penske and the residents claim a warehouse at the site would clog a steep strip of road with dangerous truck traffic, creating safety hazards.

Both parties have waged a legal challenge against the township’s 2018 decision to rezone the lot to allow warehouses. That challenge is playing out in Berks County Court.

A final vote from the commissioners on approving plans for the Northpoint warehouse is postponed while the case proceeds.

Cumru’s anti-warehouse commissioners haven’t limited their opposition to only the proposed Northpoint warehouse — they’ve also proposed reversing a zoning decision by commissioners last May to allow warehouses and distribution centers along a strip of Route 222, also known as Lancaster Pike.

At the meeting Monday, planning commission Chairman Allen Gibson said he feels officials made the wrong decision in supporting the 2018 rezoning of the Route 10 lot.

“Back then (in 2018) I felt we were doing the right thing,” Gibson said. “But then the developer comes back with this mega-warehouse and things changed. I think we got snookered.”

Developer Northpoint LLC, Riverside, Mo., proposed the current warehouse plan after Route 10 site owner Mail Shark’s plans to build their own warehouse on the land fell through.

Planning commission member Gerald Potochnik said planners should hold off on a recommendation until the litigation in county court plays out.

Officials noted that rezoning the plot again could drag the township into more litigation.

Some township officials have supported warehouses as a solution to bringing tax revenue to the township.

Township manager Jeanne Johnston noted that reductions in assessed property value and an increase in tax-exempt properties have lowered the township’s overall assessed value by roughly $1 million since last year.

“One-million dollars doesn’t sound like a lot out of $886 million, but it’s the trend that’s problematic,” Johnston said.

Gibson said planners needed time to investigate the impacts of removing warehouses from the list of permitted uses along the 222 corridor before deciding on a recommendation.

On rezoning the Route 10 plot, planning commission member Beverly Leonti said the issue is an example of a “not in my backyard” mentality.

She said plans to rezone the plot for residential development would present their own set of traffic issues.

“They (truck drivers) are professionals, they know how to handle the road,” Leonti said. “As an insurance agent, we see a lot more distracted driving claims because people are on their cellphones.”

The planning commission ultimately decided to table a recommendation on the zoning changes while the related case proceeds in court.

A hearing in the Berks court on the 2018 rezoning of the Route 10 property is ongoing under Montgomery County Judge Cheryl A. Austin after 11 Berks County judges recused themselves.

Some planning commission members said they would favor forming a new economic development committee with representatives from neighboring municipalities and the Gov. Mifflin School District to coordinate efforts to spur growth in the area.

Johnston noted the effort might focus on bringing public water to the large areas of Lancaster Pike that lack access to a water main and have to rely on smaller domestic lines, impeding development.

The planning commission also went over a sketch plan for 72 apartments on 11 acres next to the Route 10 warehouse plot.

The plans call for two 30-unit buildings and one 12-unit building.

The apartment plot is owned by William Whitman, the developer behind the Flying Hills community.

Representatives for the developers said the apartments would be maintained and managed by Flying Hills but would not be incorporated into the Flying Hills homeowners association.

Source: Berkshire mont

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