No Route 10 Warehouse

Please help to support our legal efforts to stop this warehouse!

Our mission - Prevent NorthPoint Development from building a 739,000 sq ft warehouse in our peaceful community

In 2018, Cumru Township Commissioners entered into a deal with the owner of Mail Shark to rezone 170 acres of land from Rural Conservation to General Industrial so he could build a distribution center.  The Mail Shark plan fell through and nationwide warehouse developer, NorthPoint, submitted plans to build a 739,000 sq ft warehouse on the land.  

All of this in the midst of the peaceful communities of Flying Hills, Heritage Senior Living, our Cumru neighbors and other local businesses and health care providers.  Big trucks will be choking traffic in the area 24 hours a day and creating huge backups because trucks won’t be able to make it up the hills on Rt 10 any faster than 10mph.  Residents will not sleep because of the continuous roar of their brake retarders, and black smoke will stain the buildings from their diesel exhausts.  And we get to pay for all the fire, police, infrastructure and utility improvements through our taxes while NorthPoint would enjoy a 10 year tax abatement.

Good News from our battle in the courts!

May 17, 2024

The Berks County Common Pleas court ruled this week to remand the case back to the Cumru Zoning Hearing Board.  The court found that the ZHB failed to comply with the Sunshine Act by not allowing public comment during the series of hearings that began in January of last year.  This means we will again have hearings and another decision by the board and the legal process will continue.  

Bottom line - No Warehouse, and no other undesirable development for quite some time, if ever

5.16.24 Order of Judge Cheryl Austin remanding case back to ZHB.pdf

Catching up......

Below are some email communications from our team over the last couple months.  Please email us at NoRt10Warehouse@gmail.com to receive these updates directly:

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May 17, 2024

WE WON THIS ROUND!!!  See the Order of Court attached.  The judge is remanding the matter back to the Zoning Hearing Board (a "do over").  The case isn't over, but we won this round.  We will continue to update you as we receive news.  As the Zoning Hearing Board hearings are scheduled we will keep you advised because it will be important to pack the room with supporters once again!

 

Note that the next Cumru Township Commissioners meeting is to be held Tuesday May 21 at 7.  

 

Thanks to all of you for your continued support.


 Sue

May 10, 2024

Dear Supporters,

 

Attached you will find the newest Reading Eagle article regarding the Planning Commission meeting of May 6.  It recaps the meeting for you.  Read carefully as the President of the Planning Commission admitted that rezoning the properties in 2018 was a mistake!


Cumru planners table recommendation on banning warehouses on Route 10 plot 


As discussed at the meeting, I am also attaching a sketch plan for the new apartments proposed in Flying Hills to be known as Valley Stream Apartments.  These apartments are 1 and 2 bedroom and are expected to host a younger tenant according to the developer.  The apartments would be built on the parcel of land that was one of the three  properties rezoned from Rural Conservation to General Industrial in 2018.  Ironically, to go ahead with the apartments  as planned, it will be necessary for the developer to seek relief from the zoning hearing board because the apartments are not a permitted use under the general industrial category.  The developer said something to the effect that he didn't understand why they were rezoned in 2018, it didn't make sense to him.  So they were rural conservation, then general industrial, and now will probably be rezoned to high density!!  

May 1, 2024


Dear Supporters:

Our Cumru Commissioners met on April 30 and we were pleased to see a full parking lot upon arrival! Maybe the emails are getting through to the community??  We need your support and attendance at these meetings.

The meeting included a presentation from Community Networking Resources (CNR), who are consultants working with local government entities.  If hired, they would be brought in to create a comprehensive strategic economic development plan, secure funding for this plan, secure developers, and then ensure the plan is implemented.  (Please read the Reading Eagle article attached, which outlines the details of the presentation and the Cumru meeting in general.) 

Cumru officials decline hiring consultants to help develop Route 222 


Jeanne Johnston, our Township Manager, gave a very informative history of the 222 Corridor and an explanation as to the lack of infrastructure in that area.  We learned that the 222 Corridor in the area of Paolo’s has insufficient public water and sewer, making land development in that area virtually impossible. The hope is that improving the infrastructure would lead to more businesses moving into the area and more tax revenue for the Township in the future. Think State Hill Road or Spring Township in the area of Target.  The monies for the improvements to the infrastructure could be obtained from government grants and programs that are available from time to time.  CNR has the connections and expertise to obtain these grant monies, but that is only a small piece of what they would do for the Township.  They have been successful in developing economic growth in many other communities.  Grant writing is a lengthy process and would be much more efficiently and successfully completed by professionals such as CNR.   Of course CNR is to be paid, but the thought is that the funds obtained will by far exceed the cost to retain the experts. Some of the senior commissioners seemed hostile to the idea.  Bill Miller mentioned that local politicians had offered to assist in securing government funds with no cost to the Township.  While this doesn't apply to a project of this magnitude, if that were the case, why haven't they reached out for assistance?  Dave Batdorf questioned the qualifications of the consultants, seeming to be offended that he, with  all of his knowledge and experience, hadn’t been consulted. Our question is why hasn't he proposed an idea such as this, or similar solution to the growing problem?  It is time to move on, let go of petty grievances, and do what's best for the Township.

Our newest Commissioners are trying to come up with ideas to bring in tax revenue.  Of course, the pro warehouse officials and citizens feel they have a solution to the taxing problem . . . a 750,000+ warehouse situated in a quiet, rural setting, with ingress and egress onto a hilly, windy, country road.  To us, the lives and safety of our residents seems too high a price to pay.

In reality, the loss of the landfill will reduce tax revenue by $500,000 per year.  By the time the warehouse would get approved and built, the township would lose $6,000,000 over the next 12 years.  Over those same 12 years, the warehouse would only create $1,375,000 - leaving a gap of over $4.67 million.  Professional consultants are needed to help the township bring the right kind of development and growth to Cumru.

For the last decade, taxes have increased nearly every year to the point that they have nearly doubled. Why is that happening?  Look around over the past 10 years, how much is different?  New housing developments?  New stores?  Shopping complexes?  Recreation centers?  The answer is no to most of those questions.  Factor in rising costs on top of no growth.  Like higher taxes, everyone is experiencing higher prices everywhere they go. The Township is no different.  Employees are earning more, their benefits cost more, it costs more for equipment, for energy, etc.  The combination of no growth and higher costs has to get passed onto the citizens in the form of higher taxes because the Commissioners have done nothing to change the dynamic.  We can't make things cost less, but we can bring in professionals to help us grow.  That's how we remedy the problem.

Our commissioners need to know how we feel on this issue.  We need your support and attendance at these meetings to let the Commissioners know how we feel, and to support the two newest members of the Board who are trying to come up with solutions to the problem.  What is your opinion with regard to the proposed hiring of consultants?  Since they voted against hiring the consultants, we need to press them to come up with an alternate plan to raise revenue.  We can't continue to ignore the issue.

If you can’t attend meetings in person, please email or write to your commissioners, with a copy to Jeanne Johnston, to let them know your thoughts.

Lisha L. Rowe -  lrowe@cumrutownship.org
Gregory A. Miller - gmiller@cumrutownship.org
David J. Batdorf - dbatdorf@cumrutownship.org
Andrew Donnell - adonnell@cumrutownship.org
William B. Miller - wmiller@cumrutownship.org
With a copy to:
Jeanne Johnston - jjohnston@cumrutownship.org

Please also note that the Planning Commission is meeting Monday, May 6 at 6PM to discuss, among other items, the Valley Stream Road Apartments, the proposal to build apartments on the Whitman parcel. 

April 27, 2024


Good morning,

 

As  promised I am providing a brief update after our oral argument before Judge Cheryl Austin.   The argument lasted about 2 and a half hours.  Chris Mudvi spoke on behalf of Penske and Matt Creme spoke on behalf of the individual residents of Flying Hills (and surrounding area).  Mr. Johnson of Route 10 Realty attended along with his attorney. Steve Price (who conducted the zoning hearing board proceedings) attended along with the three other attorneys representing North Point  and Johnson.  An in-house attorney for Penske was present as well.

 

Basically, the oral argument was the attorneys' opportunity to argue points made in their briefs (the two briefs were previously forwarded to you).  The arguments addressed the question of "standing" (whether we have the legal right to appeal)  of all parties but most specifically Dowling and the LLC which owns the property of Dr's. Bonaccorsi and Mudvi.  For the sake of clarity, "they" means the landowner and developer, "we" means Penske and the Flying Hills residents and neighbors.  They argued that Dowling and the LLC were added to the caption after the fact.  There was much discussion and argument as to the fact that no public comment was allowed at the 2023 Zoning Hearing Board proceedings even though the notice (flyer as the judge called it) of the meeting clearly stated that residents could attend and speak.  The judge equated that to false advertising which I took as a positive comment.  The attorneys for the landowner and developer argued that no one complained on the record (though no public comment was taken) and that we should have proceeded with a Petition to Intervene.

 

Penske's attorney argued that the Findings of Fact of the Zoning Heard Board were deficient, that they were copied "verbatim" from the briefs filed by the landowner and developer.  Arguments continued on the issue of whether we had standing to appeal the ZHB decision.  Chris Mudvi (Penske's attorney) then argued on the points regarding spot zoning.. .the history of the parcels of land prior to the 2018 rezoning, the purported reason for the rezoning, the negative effects of the rezoning on the neighboring residents and our roadways.   Discussions as to why those three parcels were the only parcels to be rezoned, why Mr Johnson chose not to use it for his own benefit but instead offered it to a developer to build a proposed warehouse 3 times as large as his new facility.  Our attorneys went into great lengths explaining how close some of those neighboring properties were with respect to the proposed warehouse,  discussing the concerns regarding traffic, noise pollution, environmental issues, safety.  The landowners' attorney told the judge that this case didn't have anything to do with spot zoning or environmental issues, it had to do with the fact that we didn't want a warehouse in our neighborhood.  They argued that there would be no more truck trips... the judge was quick to question whether the trucks would be different in the scenario of a Mail Shark facility vs. warehouse facility.  The attorneys conceded as to vans vs larger trucks.  All of these same issues had been discussed in the zoning board hearings but the points were being set forth again for the judge.  Mr. Mudvi expressed Penske's concern re changing the topography of the neighborhood, safety for its employees, etc.

 

Attorney Shollenberger stated more than once that the reputation of Mike Setley (former Cumru Township solicitor who sadly passed away during the term of these proceedings) was being questioned , to which Mr. Shollenberger took great offense.  My feeling was that he was seeking the sympathy of the court. Twice Mr. Shollenberger mentioned that Mike wasn't able to defend himself as he's no longer with us.

 

The issues standing before the court are (1) Standing (2) spot zoning (3) environmental rights and (4) Denial of due process.

 

The judge commended all counsel.  I personally had a good feeling about the judge, am grateful she is out-of-county and remain cautiously optimistic.  Now we wait for her opinion, her ruling.  It could take 3 months, 6 months, or more.

 

In the meantime,  it is important for you to attend Cumru Township Commissioners meetings!  We all need to be aware of what's going on in the Township.  There is an important meeting on Tuesday, April 30.  The time, location and agenda will be posted on the Cumru Township website.


Thank you!

Sue 

Update on the Zoning Appeal court case

March 5, 2024

The good news is there still is no warehouse as we approach 2 years in our fight to stop this development.  There is no approved plan and our township leadership has new faces that support our opposition to this proposal.

Our appeal of the 2018 zoning change is continuing with the Berks Court of Common Pleas.  There has been very little activity other than the initial filings with the Berks court other.  The most interesting development has been the recusal of ALL Berks judges for reasons unknown.  This required an out of county judge to be assigned.  We have since learned that Senior Judge Cheryl Austin of Montgomery County  is assigned to the case.

Last week the first actual movement in the case was a scheduling hearing with the judge.  

Below is a summary of the hearing and follow up:

The Northpoint team was anxious to move things quickly pleading the inequity of delay on them.  The Judge pushed back saying she was going to address the motion to quash the appeal first, which may include a hearing on how the zoning hearing board mishandled the hearing process with respect to party status.  She deferred setting a schedule for briefing the merits of the appeal. 

 

Then we received an email from counsel for the Northpoint team yesterday afternoon that they would be withdrawing the motion to quash. So the Judge will now need to schedule argument and set a date for the briefs.

 

The Motion to Quash was filed by the opposing parties.  It basically took issue with the fact that we chose to add two parties to the action reinforcing our legal standing to file the appeal.  The judge was going to address/rule on the motion to quash before moving forward.  Withdrawing their motion to quash might move things forward more quickly.

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Nov 7, 2023

We haven't posted much information recently simply because there is very little news so far.  Following our filing in Berks Court of Common Pleas, Mailshark, NorthPoint, and Cumru Commissioners also joined in the case.  All the legal briefs, appearances, transcripts, exhibits, etc. have been entered into the court record.  The case was originally assigned to Judge Lillis, who soon recused himself and the case was reassigned to Judge Nevius.  Judge Nevius also quickly recused himself and the case was assigned to Judge Gavin.  

We have now learned that NorthPoint, et al. have requested that Judge Gavin be recused because he represented Penske in another municipality and they also requested Judge Fudeman be eliminated due to a prior contact regarding the case. Not many judges left!

No other actions or decisions have been made.  In the meantime, there will be no development of the warehouse or consideration of the warehouse proposal.

Zoning Decision Appeal Filed

Aug 22, 2023

The decision by the Cumru Zoning Hearing Board was not a surprise so our plans were already in place to continue the battle in the court system.  Our legal team filed the appeal on August 21 with the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.  The appellee is the Cumru ZHB with NorthPoint and Route 10 Realty (Mail Shark) joining as Interveners.  Cumru Township Commissioners will also join as an Intervener.  This process will take several months but we now have the opportunity to be heard by an impartial judge with no ties or allegiance to the Cumru Commissioners.  The court filings are public domain so everyone can view the progress and arguments on court's docket site.  The docket number is 23 12961.

Berks Docket Search 

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Email us at NoRt10Warehouse@gmail.com to be added to our mailing list for news and updates.  

******Cumru Township Commmisioner Election******

Cumru "No Warehouse" candidates WON!!!

Greg Miller and Andy Donnell have ousted long time incumbents Sam Kalbach and Ruth O'Leary.  Ruth and Sam were primary decision makers who conducted the back door deals that enabled the illegal rezoning of the Rt 10 parcels to Industrial and opened the door for warehouses and other undesirable development and ruin our peaceful community. This should send a clear message to leaders in Cumru and other communities that we do not want these warehouses and anyone supporting them won't be in office very long.


Congratulations to Greg and Andy!! 

Cumru Zoning Hearing Board Decision July 25, 2023

The Cumru ZHB denied the appeal brought by community residents and Penske at the July 25 meeting.  This was not unexpected as the zoning board members making the decision were appointed by the Cumru Board of Commissioners (which is who made the zoning decision we are appealing).  We now have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Berks Court of Common Pleas.  In the meantime, there are still no approved plans for the warehouse, no permits have been obtained, and the township has not voted to approve or deny the proposed warehouse.

Note - The ZHB decision is almost a verbatim copy of NorthPoint's submission with only a few numbering changes.  The only difference is the ZHB decision on the last page.

Zoning Hearing Board May 31, 2023

www.readingeagle.com/2023/06/02/final-hearing-held-on-zoning-change-that-enabled-route-10-warehouse-plans-in-cumru/ 


This was our final hearing before the Cumru Zoning Hearing Board.  The meeting began with our attorney's cross examination of the developer's land value expert witness.  His original testimony focused on home values in 7 developments outside Berks that are proximate to industrial sites.  His entire logic was  based on being able to see the industrial site from the home.  Our attorney's, Chris Muvdi and Matt Creme, did a great job of discrediting each example presented by the witness and demonstrating that none of his comparisons were similar to the Cumru site.


The final witness for the developers was their land use expert.  He also seems to base most of his testimony around visibility of the proposed warehouse from nearby residences.  He did not comment on any other impacts such as traffic, noise, pollution, and all the other negative factors.  He also only focused on the specific NorthPoint warehouse plan and none of the other permitted uses for industrial zoning.  He commented on his view of spot zoning but his understanding and definition of spot zoning clearly does not align with any legal definitions or court decisions regarding spot zoning.  Overall a very good night for our side as the developer's witnesses proved to have extremely weak logic, irrelevant examples, and flawed conclusions.


The hearing wrapped up with agreement on the timeline to conclude the process.  The hearing transcript it to be delivered to all attorneys in 2 weeks.  Both sides then will have 21 days to submit their final Statement of Facts and Conclusions of Law.  The 4 members of the Zoning Board will then make their decision and announce it on July 25.  This will be held at the township building so seating will be limited. 

Zoning Hearing Board May 8, 2023


Just a very brief update on the most recent hearing.  It was a long hearing (almost 3 hours) with a very long winded and pointless narrative by the oppositions witness on land values.  He spoke for about an hour seemingly just to hear his own voice with no questions from the lawyers. 

 

The Northpoint traffic engineer testified and finally, Northpoint's real estate appraiser.  The hearing went well with our legal team making some excellent points in cross-examination.  Some very good points were made regarding the intersection at Rts 10 & 724.  Northbound traffic is often delayed by vehicles turning left at the light.  Cumru says that is not a problem because trucks can use the shoulder to go around traffic.  PennDot disagrees.  The Mail Shark owner even wrote a letter to Cumru requesting them to convince PennDot this is acceptable so he could get his permit.  Very unusual to make this request, and I am sure a police officer would be quick to issue citations for anyone using the shoulder to bypass traffic.


Our attorneys will cross-examine the real estate appraiser at the next (and final) meeting on May 31 at 5:30 PM.  Mark your calendars and plan to attend if possible, so that you can witness the proceedings for yourself and see our attorneys in action!  I think it will be worth your while!   

Zoning Hearing Board April 26, 2023

www.readingeagle.com/2023/04/28/cumru-officials-developers-defend-rezoning-of-route-10-plot-for-warehouses/ 


The first witness called was Jeanne Johnston, Township Manager.  Her employment history with the township was summarized.  She went on to speak about the fact that the Township would be losing the tax revenue from the Western Berks Landfill and that the Township was looking for ways to replenish the lost revenues.

Ms. Johnston went on to recap all the various changes to the zoning maps from 1958 through 2018 when the subject premises was rezoned.   She went into great detail as to what zoning changes were made in each instance.  

Ms. Johnston went on to recount the history of the rezoning of the subject parcels, how the township came to obtain one of the subject parcels for purposes of building a fire station, but that it was determined not to be an ideal location and that there was pressure from the township to sell the fire station parcel.  

Testimony continued that the realigning of Freemansville Road and the traffic intersection in question were part of the township's discussions prior to proposed development in question.

Ms. Johnston also testified that when the property in question was rezoned in 2018, no environmental concerns were raised by residents who attended the hearing.  She intimated that the Township tries to address concerns of its citizens.  Various property owners requested that their property not be part of the rezoning, she said, and were excluded.

Brian Johnson testified next.  He is the owner of the parcels in question.  He testified that he acquired the parcels originally in the hopes of building a larger facility for his business, Mail Shark.  He testified that he is currently leasing a larger facility for his business off of Tuckerton Road, a lease arrangement he had to pursue because of the lengthy process in completing the Cumru Township development.  His business has been in Cumru for many years and he and his family reside in Cumru, off of Route 625.

Johnson went through the lengthy process of the acquiring the parcels in question and purchasing small parcels of land from neighboring property owners in order to complete the traffic intersection and comply with requirements from PennDot, among others. 

Under cross examination, Johnson was asked how much his property value increased since it has been rezoned.  Though he didn't give a dollar amount as to the increase in property value, he admitted an increase in value.  

Zoning Hearing Board April 24, 2023

www.readingeagle.com/2023/04/26/cumru-warehouse-plan-would-devalue-nearby-homes-experts-testify/ 


Tonight's hearing began with completion of testimony from our Land Use expert, Mark Deimler, municipal engineer with Solanco Engineering,  who testified at the Feb 22 hearing.  The opposition attorneys began their cross examination to clarify some of the points made in direct testimony.


Next, our expert witness for Land Valuation, Raja Waran, an appraiser and senior managing director of Philadelphia-based Integra Realty Resources  reviewed his detailed analysis.  General conclusions were made such as residential sales in Industrial zones were lower than those in Rural Conservation zones.  He also made the point that it is uncommon for residential zones to be immediately adjacent to industrial zones.  Although this observation was primarily regarding warehouse sites.  


Finally, he provided valuation calculations showing that the 2 parcels in the proposal increased in value from $1.2M before the zone change to $24.8M after the zone change.  The opposition noted that other factors could lower this valuation such as the amount of unbuildable land.  Regardless, it is clear the rezoning vastly increased the land value to the benefit on a single individual.


The final witness was Craig Stringer, owner of Pagoda Realty and Property Management, West Lawn who testified that he has sold hundred of homes in Cumru, many in Flying Hills.  His expert opinion is that home values would be significantly impacted if the development is completed.  His observation is the values are not currently impacted because people do not actually think something this outrageous would ever actually happen.

The next meeting is Wed April 26 in the Cumru Elementary school at 6PM.

Zoning Hearing Board Meeting March 13, 2023

www.readingeagle.com/2023/03/15/traffic-expert-says-route-10-warehouse-in-cumru-would-cause-more-crashes/


Tonight’s hearing was well attended by residents of the township.  The land use expert who testified at the last meeting was not available to testify tonight, so his cross exam will be conducted at the next hearing.

 

It was agreed that the previous testimony as to the conditions of the road during the snowstorm would be accepted along with the photos of the trucks and cars stuck in the snow.

 

Joe Fiocco, the traffic engineering expert, testified next.  He recited his CV and then went step by step, page by page, through his expert report.  NothPoint’s attorney, Keith Mooney, crossed next. Points that went back and forth.


 Allen Shollenberger, attorney for Mail Shark, questioned our expert was familiar or aware that there were two separate standards for LOS ..one for intersections with signals and one for non-signal intersections.

 

Re need for signaled intersection at Rt 10 and Freemansville Road, did our expert review the Township's 209 Plan?  Was he aware that the signal was first proposed in 2002.  Our expert explained that Act 209 studies calculate all development that  might occur in the next 10 or 20 years; not unlike looking into a crystal ball.  It looks at all development that could take place in 10 years to come up with signals that may be needed in the future.  It is a 10 or 20 year projection.

 

Attorney for Cumru Residents, Matt Crème, redirected to have our expert reaffirm that there was no evidence of a crash study completed by McMahon.


Keith Mooney commented our expert's comments regarding drivers using the shoulder at Rt 10 and 724 to go around traffic stopped to make a left turn on 724, doesn't traffic do that currently??  This is interesting because using the shoulder to bypass traffic is illegal but that is the only way the intersection does not fail LOS requirements.

Recap of Zoning Board Hearing Feb 22, 2023


The hearing began with the Robeson Township Manager presenting a letter of opposition to the zoning and proposed warehouse.  The letter included details from the Police Chief with analysis, diagrams, and photos of the areas that would be impacted in Robeson.  They specifically mentioned the already high rates of accidents and injuries and how this land use would result in worsening conditions.  They also pointed out the short exit ramp and that increased commercial traffic would cause “stacking” issues at the exit causing peril to those exiting as well as everyone northbound on I-176.

 

Glenn Emery was called to share his observations of the recent snow squall on Rt. 10 traffic including large trucks stuck on the hill and blocking the lanes to demonstrate that these roads cannot handle the increased traffic that an Industrial zoning would introduce.  Photos were presented that demonstrated Glenn’s observations, there was some discussion about the admissibility of the photos to be decided later.

 

Next it was Rick Wolf’s turn to testify on his standing in the challenge.  Rick also provided testimony by reading into the record specific sections of the township meetings regarding the rezoning.

 

Finally our team introduced an expert witness for land use, Mark Deimler, municipal engineer with Solanco Engineering .  His credentials as an expert were quickly accepted and he provided great testimony about the land description, description of surrounding land, why the County and Regional Comprehensive plans were crucial and the township did not comply with either.  He also discussed principles of land planning, zoning objectives, and why this property should remain Rural Conservation.  We ran out of time for cross examination on this witness so he will resume at a later hearing.

 

Our attorneys did a great job with the direct testimony and the opposing attorney did their loud, pointless posturing on their cross examination.  The next hearing is tentatively set for March 13, and they are expected to continue through April/May.  Look for more details in the Reading Eagle.

Zoning Hearing Board meeting - February 22, 2023  6PM Governor Mifflin Intermediate School

We have not posted many updates recently, there have not been many new developments now that we are formally challenging the zoning from 2018 and have taken the process out of the Township and Developer's hands.  It has been 9 months since our community first became aware of the warehouse proposal.  It is amazing the progress we made by quickly informing the community, organizing support groups, and making the township aware of our position.  We developed a communication strategy, organized fund raising efforts, collaborated with Penske, and engaged a expert attorney.  Now the goal to reverse the rezoning is in the legal process and everyone is fully informed, aware, and participating.

A couple observations from the first hearing.  The main purpose initially was for the opposing lawyers to question our legal standing to even challenge the zoning.  There will probably be more points presented at the hearings that will not seem relevant but might be needed for procedural reasons if the board's decision is appealed.   

During the testimony, the opposing lawyers wanted to keep giving the example of the possibility of "cluster homes" if the zoning was Rural Conservation inferring it would be worse than a warehouse.  Actually, Cluster Development is Cumru requires that each home lot is a minimum of 1 acre, at least 60% of the area must be reserved as common space, and all existing slopes and natural features must be preserved.  We don't understand why the lawyers would think this was a bad thing.

They also pressed Penske about traffic volumes saying Penske would generate 800 trips during a peak hour and the warehouse would only generate 40 trips.  They obviously did not read the traffic reports already approved by PennDot.  The MailShark example (other uses could generate even more) already shows an estimated 319 new trips during the morning peak.  This would be in addition to the current 718 trips during the same peak hour.  So the PennDot approved traffic study says the peak hour traffic would increase by 50%.  This is nothing like the "40 trips" they think a warehouse would generate.

The upcoming hearings will now focus on expert testimony regarding traffic impact, safety impact, land values, etc.  Below is the accepted "standard" in Pennsylvania to define spot zoning.  Keep this in mind as you hear the testimony at the hearings.


In Takacs v. Indian Lake Borough Zoning Hearing Board, 11 A.3d 587 (Pa. Cmwlth.

2010), the Commonwealth Court explained spot zoning and the relevant legal standard, as follows:

Spot zoning is a singling out of one lot or a small area for different treatment from that

accorded to similar surrounding land indistinguishable from it in character, for the

economic benefit or detriment of the owner of that lot. The most determinative factor in an

analysis of spot zoning is whether the parcel in question is being treated unjustifiably

different from similar surrounding land, thus creating an “island” having no relevant

differences from its neighbors. Takacs, 11 A.3d at 594 (citations omitted) (emphasis

added).

January 5, 2023:  

Zoning Board Hearing  6:00PM January 23 at Governor Mifflin Intermediate School

This will the first actual session of the legal proceeding since the township failed to provide the legally required notifications for the session in November.  There will be several more sessions scheduled over the coming months.  The Zoning Board will eventually either uphold the rezoning or revert it.  Regardless of their decision, we expect the process to continue with an appeal to Berks Common Pleas, then appeal again to the higher courts.  This will be an expensive fight and it could last years – but worth it to preserve the site.

Zoning Hearing Notice 

Traffic Signal:

Please remember that the intersection expansion and traffic light was a result of a traffic study done in 2018 when MailShark had planned to build there.  The MailShark project never materialized and no proposal was ever submitted for approval.  But they did submit the results of the traffic study to PennDot based on the expected volumes for their project.  PennDot approved the intersection changes and MailShark moved forward with the expectation it would make sale of the property more attractive for someone like NorthPoint.  MailShark is paying for all the work including the lights themselves.

 

So we may end up with a big intersection and traffic lights that are nothing more than an annoyance and traffic hazard.  Our next step would be to find a way for PennDot to approve the removal of the lights since there will not be enough new traffic entering Rt 10 to justify them.  More to come on this topic.

December 17, 2022:  Township Meetings - Tax Increase!

Reminder that there are actually 2 Cumru Township meetings upcoming on Tuesday, December 20.  As always, we should attend so we can participate in our township government and decisions.

 

The first meeting at 6:30PM is to discuss the proposed self-storage facility at the old Giant site on Lancaster Pike.  The developer plans to split the lot so Ollies and Fulton bank will be on one lot, the storage will be on the remainder.  They plan to have an initial phase of placing storage units in the parking lot to start bringing in revenue.  Then a second phase would be to convert the Giant building and the furniture store into indoor storage. Remember this is a flood zone so this type of business does not require flood insurance, other uses would require very expensive insurance.  Seems like a great solution for the site.


The second meeting at 7:00PM is to approve the 2023 township property tax increase.  We are watching this closely because the township was informed this year that the landfill that provides $500,000 per year in tax revenue will close after 2023.  The township was hoping to recover some of this revenue from the proposed Rt. 10 warehouse (although it would only be a small portion of this amount due to the tax break already approved).  Regardless, the township needs to prepare for the revenue loss and this is reflected in some areas of the budget.


We looked into the new rates and the 2023 budget items that are driving the increase.  The township has several funds, each fund has its own budget.  The funds with increased rates are the General fund and the Debt Services fund.  We calculate these increases amount to $62 per $100,000 of assessed value.  (Click here to review the 2022 and 2023 budgets) 

 

Overall, the increased costs are in line with the general inflation we all are seeing, including increased fuel and utility costs, and general operational costs.  The most significant budget increases are for vehicle purchases for police, fire, and highway.  There is also a large storm sewer project for Montrose Blvd and roadwork for Hunters Road and Welsh Road.  We also see that the township is working for grants and external funding to reduce the impact of these costs. (Click here for a more detailed review) 

 

The township also took out a bond in 2020 for $15.7 million to fund the new fire station and other expenses.  The good news is that this bond benefits from the low interest rates in 2020.  However we see the costs reflected in the Debt Services budget.

October 31, 2022:  We have confirmed that the hearing for our challenge to the zoning on Rt. 10 will be on November 16 at the Governor Mifflin Intermediate School Cafeteria at 6PM.  We expect that several sessions will be needed due to the number of parties involved and the expert witnesses that will be called.  The next session will likely be later in January and the process is expected to continue through the spring.  Please plan to attend this session to show community support so this land can be reverted to Rural Conservation zoning.

There are 5 parties involved and represented by lawyers. - our Community group, Penske, Route 10 Realty (Mail Shark/Brian Johnson), NorthPoint, and Cumru Township.  The Cumru ZHB acts as the neutral party to administer and adjudicate the hearings.  There will be multiple hearings to allow for all the expert witness testimony

Please continue to support our efforts by donating to our GoFundMe or directly to our attorney.  Our legal costs are already over double the funds we have available and we still have a long battle ahead.

Oct 20, 2022:  Just a brief update to our supporters.  Our attorney, Matthew J. Crème, has provided us with a short status report recently.  He has advised that he is working closely with the attorneys representing Penske in preparing for the November 16 meeting.  The first hearing is scheduled for November 16, and the attorneys are working to schedule hearings in December and January, though those dates have not yet been confirmed. Additional hearings will be necessary because of the number of witnesses expected to be called.  We (Cumru Township residents) have been asked to contribute to the cost of the expert witnesses.

All the lawyers involved have agreed to a stipulation that there can be no further consideration of the NorthPoint proposal until the zoning challenge is settled through the legal process.  This includes Cumru Township, Brian Johnson (Mail Shark), Penske, and our group (Cumru Residents). 

Along with the status report, we received our first invoice.  It has depleted the Gofundme account and we have a rather large outstanding balance.  We feel strongly that we cannot continue this fight without the legal expertise of Mr. Crème.  If you attended the Planning Commission meeting, you heard the statements he and the attorneys for Penske provided and that testimony ultimately led to the Planning Commission deciding in our favor.

We need to raise additional funds.  If you have not contributed to the Gofundme, please do so.  If you are able to make a second contribution, it would be appreciated.  If you prefer to write a check, instructions as to where to mail your check are provided on our webpage.  Maybe you have expertise in fundraising or suggestions as to how we can raise funds.  If so, please reach out.  Perhaps a committee can be formed that can work together to come up with some solutions. 

Separately, we have been receiving numerous inquiries about the status of the work at the intersection of Freemansville Rd and Rt 10.  This work was part of the original Mail Shark development plan (it was never submitted to the township for approval but the intersection reconstruction was submitted to PennDOT and approved) - entirely paid for by Brian Johnson.  Since this is not part of the NorthPoint plan, it is not impacted by our challenge.  However we have submitted a "Right to Know" request for all plans and documentation related to the project.  PennDOT has asked for a 30 day extension to provide the documents.  We have observed that even if the roadwork gets completed, the traffic volumes proposed by NorthPoint would not justify a traffic light based on PennDOT criteria.

Submitted to PennDOT Oct 11:  

"Please provide all documents related to current and planned activities at the intersection of State Route 3003 (Freemansville Road) and State Route 0010 (Morgantown Road) in Cumru Township, Berks County regarding HOP permits 05059405/05059412 and the associated Traffic Signal Permit.  Information requested to include, but not limited to, all meeting minutes, requests, correspondence, final plans, inspections, Field Inspectors Diary, permits, and supplements."

We need your continued help.  Please share with other Cumru residents, your friends and neighbors.  We appreciate your support and commitment to this fight.

********The Wheels are in Motion*********

Sept 19, 2022:  Our Community, in partnership with Penske, have filed a validity challenge against the township to revert the rezoning to Rural Conservation.  We are told by the township that this now Stays any further consideration of the NorthPoint plan until the challenge is resolved.  

The validity challenge is filed with the Cumru Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) against Cumru Township Board of Commissioners with regard to Spot Zoning based on the 2018 zoning change from Rural Conservation to General Industrial.  The ZHB is the Judicial arm of the township government with initial jurisdiction. Depending on the outcome, next steps would be the Berks County civil courts then appeal courts.

Please keep checking back, this is the beginning of a long legal process but circumstances can change quickly.  It will be in NorthPoint's best interest to pack up and go away, but we still need to correct the zoning so this cannot happen again.

Here are the Board's email addresses

President Ruth A. O'Leary  roleary@cumrutownship.org

Vice President David J. Batdorf  dbatdorf@cumrutownship.org

Commissioner Sam Kalbach  skalbach@cumrutownship.org

Commissioner William B. Miller  wmiller@cumrutownship.org

Commissioner Lisha Rowe  lrowe@cumrutownship.org

Township Manager Jeanne Johnston <jjohnston@cumrutownship.org> (paid position, not a voting member)

Cumru Planning Commission votes to Reject the NorthPoint Plan!

At the September 12 meeting the Planning Commission determined there was no further action possible by the commission and voted to recommend rejection of the plan due to safety and traffic issues.  The plan now goes to the Township Board of Commissioners for their final vote.  The Board still has the ability to accept the Planning Commission recommendation and reject or they could approve regardless of the recommendation.  So we need to keep up the pressure to oppose this plan.

The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Sept 20 where this topic will be on the agenda.  The Board stated they are not able to arrange an alternate location for the meeting and the Township can only accommodate 80 people in the room, including the Township members.  So public attendance will be limited.  Our team contacted the Township to offer assistance to arrange for space at Governor Mifflin but were shot down.  Click here to see the Township's response 

Cumru planners reject developer's warehouse proposal - WFMZ

Cumru residents take stand against proposed project  - WFMZ

Route 10 warehouse would ‘impair the welfare of residents,’ Cumru officials say  - Reading Eagle

Another Rt. 10 rollover accident

Sept 3 about 3PM.  100 yards south of Freemansville Road. Car was headed south and somehow crossed over to the opposite side and hit a stump on the bank, causing the car to roll on it's side. Luckily no serious injuries but think about where all those trucks would go for the hours Rt. 10 was shutdown.

Latest Updates - September 3

Northpoint submitted a few new planning documents as required by Township ordinances in advance of the Sept 12 Planning Committee meeting.  These check a few boxes in their hopes of getting Township approval for the warehouse plan.  Still no Traffic Impact Study.  

Northpoint and Schlouch Engineering should be thankful these docs are not graded on quality or content.  For example, the Community Assessment plan is supposed to detail emergency management.  Schlouch managed to fit the entire emergency management plan into half a page.


Please be sure to attend the Planning Committee meeting Monday Sept 12 6PM at the Governor Mifflin Intermediate School Cafeteria where these plans will be discussed.

Update - August 16

The next important Cumru Planning Committee meeting is planned for Monday Sept 12 at 6PM in the Governor Mifflin Intermediate School Commons Area.  This is the meeting where we expect the planning committee to discuss the waiver requests from NorthPoint.  We need to fill the room again to continue to show the township that the community is united in opposition to the NorthPoint plan.

Our attorney, Matthew J. Creme, will be there to speak on our behalf so the best thing we can do is show our strength by attending but let the attorney do the talking this time.  Our hope is that the committee sticks to the ordinance requirements as much as reasonably possible and not grant waivers that NorthPoint requested at the August meeting.  Mr. Creme described that some waivers for minor items are commonly granted if the developer can reach the same results with an alternate process so it would not be unexpected for some of the requests to be granted.  

But the waiver requests to skip the Environmental Impact Analysis, the Community Resource Impact Assessment, and the Traffic Impact Study are very significant and the committee should required these as per ordinance.  It is good planning to require these studies and make sure all issues are covered and not just "trust" the developer to do the right thing.

There are other legal challenges in process behind the scenes, but the Planning Committee actions regarding the waivers are the most important to focus on now.  The Planning Committee must make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners before the November 30 deadline.  The Planning Committee has the job to review the developer's plan ,determine compliance with ordinances (or issue waivers), and make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners to approve or reject. 

PC 08012022 agenda.pdf
NP-GVC review letter for revised plans 7.29.2022.pdf

Let's Support our Township Commissioners!

We have sent some clear messages to the Township that the vast majority of residents are opposed to this development.  But the Township has not approved anything and we need to support them to make the right decisions while they still have control.  We must suggest to the Township what they can do to support the residents.

 

The Township has discretion to set the appropriate requirements for the Northpoint plan.  The most obvious opportunity is for the Township to require a new Traffic Impact Study.  The current study was done for the Mail Shark proposal which is now defunct.  The study is very limited in scope and it is invalid for this project.  The Township requirements and approval are completely separate from the PennDOT approval so the Township should not make any decision based on PennDOT.  The first step before the study is started is to have a scope meeting with the applicant, the township, and PennDOT.  We think the Township should require this meeting and insist the scope to include all intersections from I-176 Northbound to US-422 at Lancaster Ave to I-176 at Rt 724.

 

Let’s encourage the Township to make this requirement, then we can address the study findings based on a relevant scope.  We should review the other parts of the plan to identify similar opportunities for the township to set requirements that ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing for our residents.

Cumru Planning Commission Meeting: Important Update

Thank you to those who took the time to attend Northpoint’s second Open House on July 26 at the Berks Nature Center. 

 

As you may know, we have engaged an attorney to look into ways in which we can fight the proposed warehouse.  We wanted to give you a brief update of what was discussed with the attorney.

 

First of all, we have retained an expert in the field of zoning and land development issues.  He has represented 40 municipalities in 6 counties, so he is well aware of the legal process in matters of this sort.

 

The attorney explained the process for the submission and for the township to approve the land development plan.  Once the application/proposed plan is submitted to the township, a timeline begins.  The Township has 90 days within which to take action pursuant to state law.  In those 90 days, reports (review letters) are gathered, environmental, traffic, water and sewer studies and the like.  In this case, the Township has requested different engineers to review different aspects of the plans as submitted.  Those reports often take time and in most cases, it is necessary for the applicant, the land developer, to request an extension of the 90 day period in order to provide all reports from engineers, etc., necessary for township approval.  That 90 day period, in this case, will expire in September and it is very likely that an extension will be requested and granted.  For this reason, it is possible and even likely that the applicant (Northpoint) will remove this matter from the August 1 agenda.  This is not at all unusual and sometimes happens at the last minute.

 

Once the developer/applicant’s reports are submitted, they are “proofread” and township engineers make recommendation and/or suggested changes to the plans as submitted.  These are called review letters and the township will point out errors in the plans that can be remedied (waivers).   In a project of this size, we can expect many waivers/changes to be suggested which will prolong the process. 

 

All things considered, we plan to attend the August 1 meeting to begin at 6PM in the GM Intermediate School cafeteria (with No Route 10 Warehouse signs in hand) to make it known to the Township that we are still very much objecting to the proposed warehouse.  Whether they allow us to speak at the meeting (if the item is removed from the agenda) remains to be seen.  If we are permitted to speak and make comments, it is likely that they be limited to 3 minutes per speaker.

 

Rest assured that our opposition to the warehouse continues.  We have experts in the field planning strategies to fight on our behalf.

 

Please continue to follow our website, www.nort10warehouse.com

where we will post news and updates from time to time.  Please also consider a donation to www.gofundme.com/nort10warehouse.  All monies collected will be used to pay for attorney fees and expenses.  We need your help!  If each member of our community would make a donation in whatever amount they are comfortable with, we could reach our goal.  We need your help!  We can’t do this without the support of our community.  If you have other fundraising ideas, or ideas about how to spread the word throughout our community, please feel free to reach out on our webpage with your ideas.

 

We appreciate your support!

Come Together


"Coming together is the beginning.

Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success!"

    -   Henry Ford                         


The opening track on the Beetle’s 1969 release, Abbey Road is entitled, “Come Together”.  Written by John Lennon, the song was conceived as a sign of Lennon's political support for the writer, psychologist and pro-drugs activist Timothy Leary in his bid to stand against Ronald Reagan as Governor of California.  The song was to be a rallying cry for people to come together in support of Leary’s campaign.  History tells us that the song and the album enjoyed much more success than Leary’s campaign, which ended shortly after his arrest for cannabis possession.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to come together, if you will, with concerned neighbors and many others who have recently been made aware of a proposed 750,000 + square foot warehouse/distribution center to be erected immediately adjacent to a planned community that serves as the primary residential development in our township.  As you can imagine, there is substantial push-back by residents and some local businesses.  Concerns include, but are not limited to, previously approved zoning decisions, increased traffic volume, environmental impact, noise and light pollution and general safety issues.  However, a remarkable thing is happening, people are coming together, working together and no one gives a damn about political affiliations, ethnicity, religion or any of the other roadblocks that so often get in the way.


Two weeks ago I began my blog, Bigger than Yourself with a quote from Norman Vincent Peale, “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.”  It’s true!  Over the past few weeks I have marveled at how people have come together in support of this unique cause.  In this short period of time,  a logo has appeared, a webpage created, and an attorney contracted.  Productive meetings are happening and positive emails containing productive thoughts fill my inbox daily.  Recently the developer sponsored an open-house designed to inform and enlighten.  While almost all those present were against this project, not once did I hear a negative slur, a loud accusation or threat.  It seemed that everyone, on both sides of this issue had embraced Covey’s 5th habit, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”


I have no idea what the outcome will be for this particular issue.  I’m hopeful that those on the Planning Commission and the Township Supervisors will listen to the residents and work with the Developer in finding a more appropriate site for this project.  However, regardless of the outcome, this initiative has demonstrated that people can put labels, affiliations and the like aside and come together, work collaboratively and seek better outcomes.  Margaret Mead was right, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  We might not be changing the world, but you have to start somewhere!

EMBRACE THE CHALLENGE !