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Proposed Easton Commerce Park draws LVPC ire for traffic impacts

Easton/Wilson Warehouse
Public Document
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
The outlined location of a proposed warehouse in Wilson Borough and Easton

EASTON, Pa. — A proposal for a warehouse over 1 million square feet at the Wilson Borough-Easton line was reviewed by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's Comprehensive Planning Committee on Tuesday.

And it's generated some worry.

The “Easton Commerce Park" proposal by Scannell Properties is at the old Pfizer Pigments and Elementis Pigments property at 1525 Wood Ave.

It calls for a 1,006,880-square-foot warehouse and is seeking potential tenants as the developers pursue approval from the three municipalities the property touches.

The 106.2-acre site containing woodlands, slopes and a former industrial lot is facing ire for its potential environmental and traffic impact, as well as the sheer scale. It would be constructed near the Route 22 interchange with 13th Street.

“So a degree this, this checks off some boxes for us and it could potentially be a good thing," LVPC Vice Chairman Christopher Amato said.

“However, as it stands, my concerns that could be a bad thing, by far outweigh those potential good things."

Warehousing is a permitted-by-right use for the site in Wilson and Easton, but a portion of the lot where development is not currently planned does reside within Palmer Township, which does not permit the use.

The LVPC in its report to officials in the three municipalities says the proposed building would greatly surpass the size of any surrounding developments, and has the potential for significant impact as a result.

“The proposal has been designed to maximize building size, disregarding site topography and existing natural resources, including steep slopes and woodlands that are critical to supporting wildlife habitats adjacent to the Bushkill Creek," the report states.

According to Susan Myerov, director of environmental planning, a portion of the proposed site includes what is now identified as a supporting landscape by the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, and smaller building footprints and increased buffer distances could maximize the preservation of wetlands, critical habitats, and natural resources in the area.

Myerov said a portion of the site is in a flood plain and would require the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection review and approval to relocate a Bushkill Creek tributary.

It encouraged the developers to reduce building square footage overall, or potentially reduce the complex into multiple smaller buildings for commercial flex-spaces that would eliminate any possible conflicts with Palmer Township's zoning designations.

Traffic and access also a concern

Traffic also raises a red flag, with the LVPC stating that roads in the vicinity are not built to withstand the estimated high volume of tractor-trailers from the proposed site.

A traffic impact study submitted does not align with current designs and final uses are not set, raising some eyebrows from commissioners about what the project could entail.

Work occurring inside a warehouse (Photo | Pexels)

Committee member John Gallagher also worried about the lack of clarity on the final use and details regarding the project as proposed.

“I think their goal was just to get a million square feet somewhere on that site," Gallagher said.

“We can't really do a serious review of this without accurate information."

"We can't really do a serious review of this without accurate information."
John Gallagher

The report states that nearby developments and residential neighborhoods could face quality-of-life impacts depending on how traffic is routed.

Currently, driveway access is provided to Wood Avenue and Hackett Avenue, both state roads.

A nearby bridge on Hackett Avenue first constructed over a century ago would also be significantly impacted, according to the LVPC, creating “a situation that is unsustainable" without an immediate plan to replace the bridge.

The report also states, if approved, the developer should coordinate with local municipalities to create a truck route to Route 22 with clear instructions and accommodations to mitigate the impact to the surrounding community.

It also recommends a proposed access drive on Hackett Avenue be restricted to a left turn only for tractor-trailers to mitigate the possibility of routing through local neighborhoods.

Walking Trail Access Easton Warehouse
Public Document
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
Trail and pedestrian access was also a concern, with the desire that any approved project connect existing trail gaps and provide access via them

Access to the site for potential workers is also a concern due to the lack of pedestrian connections to the main entrance via LANTA services.

The LVPC recommends the inclusion of a walking trail that connects to the Karl Sterner Arts Trail in Easton and expresses the desire for a connection to the Wilson bike path to close a trail network gap.