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'It won't be the same': Families, neighbors rally against warehouse near Prospect Hill Cemetery

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

For Sharon Edwards, Prospect Hill Cemetery is a sacred place.

The Manchester Township cemetery is where much of her family — her mother, brother, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles — is buried. She can't think of the place without thinking of her mother's insistence, when Edwards was still in her 20s, that the family stay there together when the cemetery began selling family plots.

"She'd say, 'I'll help you'," she remembered. "'You better get one now before other people, and we'd all be in one area.'"

Now in her 60s, Edwards appreciates why that was so important to her mother. That sense of belonging is one reason why she's joined an increasingly vocal contingent of people who are protesting a plan to build a warehouse on a 52-acre parcel next to the cemetery.

“It won’t be the same, no matter what they say,” Edwards said.

Michelle Hughes (right) and Sharon Edwards (left) have several generations of their family buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery and want to retain the peace the cemetery has when visiting their late family.

'Stop the warehouse': Details on the actual warehouse are still scarce, but signs have cropped up around the cemetery imploring township officials to "stop the warehouse." In December 2021, an expanse of land adjacent to the main cemetery was rezoned for industrial use and an online marketplace for commercial properties advertised the land as the future site of a 422,000-square-foot warehouse.

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One of the developers, Jeff Inch, of Inch & Co. Construction, said the group is working with township officials to finalize their plans for the site. So far, they have not yet formally submitted those plans. Likewise, there's no construction timetable for the project.

Although those details are still being finalized, Inch said there will be a 50- to 100-foot buffer between the industrial land and the cemetery.

"We designed whatever's going to be there — [whether it's ultimately a] warehouse or manufacturing facility — to sit on the opposite end of the property" toward the Met-Ed offices, Inch said, "so that way there is a large, natural buffer."

LoopNet — an online marketplace for commercial property — advertised the Pennsylvania Avenue space as a 422,000 square foot, one-story structure.

'We want peace': Amid the uncertainty, nearby residents and people with family members buried in the cemetery have mobilized to oppose whatever Inch and his associates build on the site.

Edwards attended a recent protest at the cemetery alongside her cousin, Michelle Hughes.

"My mom was just buried a year ago," Hughes said, "When me and my siblings come to see my mom, we want peace — and quiet ways to talk to her. That's the way it should be."

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One of the signs along Pennsylvania Avenue commemorates a 6-year-old boy who died of brain cancer and is buried at the cemetery. One of the protesters, Troy Heartman, said family members still come to visit Noah's grave and refer to the street as "Noah's Road."

The fear, he said, is that this development would disrupt Noah's Road.

Signs made by those with loved ones buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery dot the Pennsylvania Avenue Entrance.

'Misconceptions': In an interview with The York Dispatch, Inch said there are some misconceptions circulating about the warehouse. According to him, the development will not impact the cemetery's current entrance. The entrance to the warehouse will be completely separate, he said.

Inch said the developers are in discussions with a potential manufacturer, so the final plan may not exclusively be a warehouse facility. He could not name the potential occupant because the deal is still being negotiated.

"This user is planning on bringing 300 jobs to this area as a result of the manufacturing building," he said. "I think the misconception is that there's going to be this big warehouse [with] tractor trailers running in and out."

Residents along Pennsylvania Avenue are remembering loved ones resting across the street at Prospect Hill Cemetery and protesting a warehouse that could be coming to their doorstep.

Inch said he hopes the facility could bring high-paying jobs to an area with a shortage of them.

Concerned citizens, meanwhile, are trying to get ahead of the curve.

Lettice Brown, a York City resident who started a Facebook group to oppose the development, said she wanted to raise awareness of what could be coming to the area.

The group has become a place "allowing people to freely express their emotions and, you know, a place to rant or, you know, voice their displeasure," she said. "You know, they have a safe space to do that."

Lettice Brown is the founder of the Facebook page Residents Against the Warehouse on PA Avenue and has organized two protests.

Board knows little: When she initially confronted township officials about it, Brown said they couldn't tell her anything.

The answer is still largely the same.

Township Manager Tim James said officials expect to see a plan for the site soon but, so far, they don't have anything in hand.

"Nothing has been given to us to go through the process whatsoever," he said. "Nor has there been any conversation at the board level. We expect it, but we haven't had it."

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Brown herself has a personal connection to the cemetery. Her parents, who are still living, have plots purchased at Prospect Hill, and Brown recently buried a friend there. Since she began the Facebook group, hundreds of York County residents have joined to follow the latest developments.

"I think that should be known to everybody, especially if it affects them directly," she said.

Some locals who live nearby also worry about the impact the potential warehouse could have on their lives.

Locals and members of the Residents Against the Warehouse on PA Avenue Facebook page gather at an entrance to Prospect Hill Cemetery protesting the potential construction of a warehouse.

Stephen Nicholas Jr. lives at SpiriTrust Lutheran, The Village at Kelly Dive, a nearby retirement community. Nicholas also has family buried in the cemetery and owns a plot there for himself and his wife.

"The members who are very close to Pennsylvania Avenue are horrified at the thought that there's going to be more truck traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue," he said.

Heavy truck traffic could disrupt the solemnity of the cemetery, according to Nicholas, himself a retired pastor who's conducted many graveside services.

A homemade sign spells out "No Warehouse" at the Thursday March 2 protest.

"It's a time where you need quiet," he said. "Now, I don't say this is going to happen every time there's a graveside service, but sometimes it will happen."

Proximity to Route 30: Inch feels the location's proximity to Route 30 makes it a good spot for the facility.

"That's kind of where it's all going," he said, of recent developments. "Instead of going out to the farmlands and bringing traffic through back roads, we bring the density to Route 30."

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The developer also reiterated that he doesn't believe the traffic around the site will be overwhelming, noting that traffic studies have been requested by the township as part of the planning process.

For now, Brown said those who want to learn more about the warehouse can join the Facebook group Residents Against Warehouse on PA Avenue. Members don't have to participate and are welcome to join just to stay informed.

— Reach Noel Miller at or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.