The Monday evening meetings of both the North East Township planning commission and the supervisors brought a group of residents from the neighborhood centered on South Washington street to air concerns over a proposed rezoning, from R2 residential to B1 commercial, of a property, owned by Lloyd and Joan Bemiss, adjacent to the Roberts Trucking Company. The previous meeting of the planning commission had given the preliminary OK to the rezoning request. During Monday's meeting, the commission said their OK was based on the fact that they heard no objections at that time, even though, as brought out Monday, few knew the commission would be discussing the issue at the prior meeting.
Residents cite numerous problems already
The residents' concerns focus on the probable sale of the property to Roberts Trucking. Both the planning commission and the supervisors heard a long list of complaints about truck traffic, noise, dust and safety caused by trucks already operating from the facility. They noted semis are frequently driving through the residential area using South Washington street, which is posted with a 10 ton weight limit as a route to and from the Roberts location despite numerous calls to township supervisors, the trucking company and state police. Noise issues stem from back up alarms sounding at all hours of the night, heavy usage of Jake Brakes to slow trucks down and the additional noise of heavy truck repair now being performed there.
The property considered for rezoning seems to require access to South Washington street for almost any use the trucking company would have planned, dramatically increasing heavy truck traffic through the residential community, above what is already occurring. There is also concern over some possible uses of the property, such as a cold storage facility which would require large amounts of ammonia to be stored on the property, a potential hazard to the residents should a leak occur.
As several residents asked at the meetings, if existing problems cannot be resolved, what will happen if the trucking company expands?
What's actually going on?
Both the planning commission and supervisors seemed surprised at the level of concern. Planning commission member Susan Sprague appeared to dismiss residents' concerns, saying the ball field on South Washington would provide a sufficient buffer for residents from the noise and truck traffic. She also indicated the township was following a plan for development and this commercial area was a part of it. Supervisors said they knew nothing of any action on the part of Roberts Trucking, they were only considering the rezoning as a request from a property owner. In both cases, there seems to be little information available to the public to see what is planned for their neighborhood.
Transparency is absolutely necessary
Everyone involved in this process would benefit from greater transparency and communication. If there are major plans for expansion in the neighborhood, both Roberts Trucking and township officials should be very clear about what those plans are instead of keeping them from residents until the last minute. Residents are trying to present their concerns and ask questions. If their inquiries are met with silence or their concerns dismissed, the controversy will only grow. No one in North East will benefit from that.