The late afternoon light gives a golden tinge to the arching green leaves, and songbirds swoop and dive above the fields. The sky is bright and clear.
For as long as I can remember, this scene has greeted me when I turn off Route 222 onto Hottenstein Road, and it feels like home. I know how the leaves turn crispy sienna in the fall, and in winter the corn stubble casts blue and lavender shadows on the sparkling snow.
Imagine a different scene. On the way home, I struggle to turn off Route 222, wary of the stream of semi-trucks. I drive down Hottenstein surrounded not by green leaves and swooping birds, but by two monstrous, dour warehouses. There’s a mural on the side of one of the buildings, a weak attempt to commemorate the history destroyed by the company that razed the fields.
This second scene has not yet come to pass. But it will, unless something changes.
Duke Realty, a company based in Indiana, has proposed to build two truck distribution warehouses on 300 acres of land between Hilltop Road and Long Lane. The warehouses will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The preliminary plan was approved by the Maxatawny Township supervisors in June.
These warehouses are a threat to our community.
“The farmland we have in Pennsylvania is some of the best in the world. Covering it with warehouses is foolish and shortsighted. Even worse, part of the Duke project land is a wetland. We learned in seventh grade that wetlands are a vital part of a healthy ecosystem, lush habitats and water filtration systems at the same time. Destroying a wetland is a bad idea.”
First, the traffic. The warehouses will add an estimated 5,122 cars and 1,948 trucks to the road every day, which PennDOT’s statistics suggest will exceed the road’s capacity. Traffic on 222 is miserable even now. Adding more than 7,000 vehicles a day will make this road incredibly dangerous for all drivers. In Pennsylvania in 2019, heavy trucks were involved in 12.3% of all fatal crashes, despite only being involved in 5.6% of all crashes.
Duke says that the trucks will not be allowed on back roads. But anyone who has lived in this area knows that trucks are perfectly capable of ignoring signs and taking shortcuts. Our quiet residential roads will not be spared.
There are environmental concerns as well. These warehouses will cause pollution. The thousands of trucks and cars coming in and out of the warehouses all day will cause noise pollution and air pollution. At night, the warehouses will cause light pollution. Duke proposes withdrawing around 50,000 gallons of water per day from local aquifers, which could deplete local wells and cause a chemical plume to contaminate our water supply.
The farmland we have in Pennsylvania is some of the best in the world. Covering it with warehouses is foolish and shortsighted. Even worse, part of the Duke project land is a wetland. We learned in seventh grade that wetlands are a vital part of a healthy ecosystem, lush habitats and water filtration systems at the same time. Destroying a wetland is a bad idea.
Any financial benefits to our community will be short-lived. The warehouses may create jobs at first, but many of those jobs will be automated in coming years. Additionally, Duke plans to pay for road improvements in the surrounding area, but once they make this contribution, they are no longer responsible for what happens to our roads. After they leave, the financial burden falls on us.
Vibrations caused by the increased traffic may damage the Hottenstein Mansion, a historic landmark. The traffic will also make it extremely difficult for local Mennonite communities to cross the road in their buggies.
I have attended several meetings to speak out against the warehouses. At the June meeting, around 100 people showed up in protest — teachers and lawyers and parents, including long-time residents and people who just moved to the area. Many others who didn’t attend have posted signs in their yards. From the extreme traffic increase, to the blighting of the landscape, to the destruction of farmland and wetlands, to the removal of a historic graveyard, we all will suffer if these warehouses are built.
And yet our pleas were completely ignored by the township supervisors. When my sister spoke through tears, one member looked irritated.
The entire process has been sickening to watch. Two of the three Maxatawny Township supervisors have family members with financial ties to the project. The Pennsylvania Ethics Commission ruled that those people are allowed to second the motion and vote on the motion to approve the project, as long as they don’t introduce the motion. It doesn’t take an ethicist to see the corruption in this situation.
And when they did vote, the Maxatawny Township supervisors approved the preliminary plan for the warehouse. Although construction won’t begin tomorrow, that vote was the main barrier. Now I can’t drive past those fields without a wrenching pang of anxiety and sadness.
But there is still time. The warehouses have not yet been built.
Learn more about the warehouses and the Maxatawny Community Coalition (a group organized to oppose the warehouses) at savemaxatawny.org, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed. If you are able, please donate to help the MCC cover legal fees and other costs. You can also write to the Maxatawny Township supervisors to voice your opposition to the warehouse project.
Marina Schnell is a resident of Maxatawny Township who lives on Hottenstein Road.
Source: Berkshire mont