Despite opposition, Newberry Twp. approves warehouses

Christopher Dornblaser

The Newberry Township Board of Supervisors approved plans for two warehouses near Interstate 83, despite opposition from the community.

Residents look at plans for warehouse-distribution centers in Newberry Township Tuesday, July 26, 2016, during a meeting with township supervisors regarding the plans. The board unanimously approved the project, which includes construction of two large buildings. Bil Bowden photo

The plans were a source of contention at the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday night, so much so that the meeting, normally scheduled at the municipal building, was moved to the Newberry Township Fire Hall so it could accommodate the number of people coming out to voice their opinions.

Troy Briggs, regional director for Goodman Birtcher, explains details of the warehouse property to a Newberry Township resident. The York Haven Fire House was filled to capacity for the zoning meeting.  Bil Bowden photo

About 100 people filled the room, with about 20 taking the time to address their concerns to the board and the company proposing the warehouse, California-based developer Goodman Birtcher. The discussion between the citizens, the company and the board took almost three hours.

Online petition started to prevent Newberry Twp. warehouses

Goodman Birtcher's proposal for the Goodman Logistics Center includes one 1.1 million-square-foot building and another 732,000-square-foot building on 188.5 acres of land partially visible from I-83, according to plans filed with the township. Construction is expected to cost more than $160 million, and the warehouses are expected to employ about 1,000 people, the company said.

On Tuesday night, representatives from the company came and listened to the concerns of the citizens, as well as presented their plans.

An online petition started to prevent the construction had nearly 700 supporters Wednesday afternoon.

The township's board of supervisors was scheduled to vote on the plan at its June 28 meeting, but members elected to postpone the vote after many residents attended to speak out against the construction.

Newberry board chairman, residents at odds over warehouses

All but one member of the five-person board voted in favor of the plans this week. Supervisor Maxine Kauffman voted against the plan.

The meeting: The fire hall was completely filled with citizens ready to voice their opinion on the proposal.

The board allowed people to come up and speak, with many addressing their concerns. The concerns ranged from pollution and traffic to more personal matters, such as how the warehouses would affect those in close proximity to them.

Chris Donley, who previously talked about his home being affected by the plans, spoke again at Tuesday's meeting, addressing the effects the warehouses might have on his home. Donley, a third-generation farmer, would be surrounded on three sides by the warehouses, in what he called an "upside-down horseshoe."

Resident Chris Donley speaks before the Newberry Township board of supervisors Tuesday, July 26, 2016, during a meeting regarding approval of plans for the construction of two large warehouse-distribution centers in the township. The board unanimously approved plans for the project. Bil Bowden photo

"All life and quality of life which we grew up in will be altered," he said.

Donley said he was unhappy with the plans but he understood the likelihood of them being approved and asked the representatives from Goldman Birtcher to consider installing high walls around his property, to block out any light and noise pollution.

"At least that will help soften the blow," he said.

Warehouses: Representatives for the company spoke to the citizens after the public comment period, showing off designs for the building.

The land, which is zoned mixed-use commercial, is bordered by Potts Hill and Wyndame roads, and the proposed entrance would be in Fairview Township. They showed that trees, all of which were described as "fast-growing" and would have to be six feet tall, at a minimum, would surround the location. They also said the buildings would be no less than 45 feet tall.

Additionally, the designs addressed an issue that a few had brought up — that there had been plans for a third building. Charles Courtney, a Harrisburg-based attorney representing Goodman Birtcher, said that was to account for maximum traffic in a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation study, and that they did not have any plans currently to build a third building.

"What is being pursued within this plan is strictly two buildings," Courtney said, adding that if there was a third building, the company would have to submit it through the planning process all over again.

The plans they showed Tuesday night only had two buildings.

The study they conducted for PennDOT showed 1,400 trips to the warehouses a day, each trip accounting for a leave and return trip. They said at the meeting that they will give the study to PennDOT and will make any road renovations necessary based on the department's recommendations.

Approval: After the presentation, many of the same citizens came back up to the board to once again address their concerns. Despite the concerns, board solicitor Margaret "Mieke" Driscoll said that because Goodman Birtcher's plans met the requirements for approval, they could not legally turn them down.

Additionally, Donley went up to the board and again urged Goodman Birtcher to consider working with him to make sure his land is not too hurt by the warehouses. The representatives agreed to talk with him afterward to see what they might be able to do.

After the meeting, Courtney said the company was happy with the decision and said they would work with the community to make sure the warehouses do not negatively impact residents.

He said previously the company had gone "above and beyond" to work with the citizens in the areas where its warehouses are located.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.