Need to Know
Spot Zoning is Illegal
The extract below is a legal view of spot zoning presented to the Centre Regional Planning Agency, State College, PA. (click here for the full presentation ). We believe the rezoning by Cumru Township of the parcels to be developed resulted in Spot Zoning. Spot Zoning is “a singling out of one lot or small area for different treatment from that accorded to similar surrounding land from which it is indistinguishable in character for the economic benefit (or detriment) of the property owners.” Cumru Township created an island zoning of General Industrial for this development, but all the surrounding parcels are zoned as Rural Conservation, Agricultural, or Residential.
Is this Spot Zoning?
Is the requested amendment consistent with the Comprehensive Plan? No! Completely contradicts the Governor Mifflin Comprehensive Plan
Is the requested use or zoning district significantly different from the surrounding area? Yes! None of the adjoining properties are anything close to Industrial
Will the use or district benefit a few landowners while creating negative impacts to surrounding landowners? Yes! The land owners will profit by Millions, the neighbors will suffer financially and for quality of life
Will the amendment affect a small area and provide private, rather than public benefit? Yes! Mail Shark and Northpoint are taking the benefit without providing any benefit to the community
Land Use History
The proposed development includes Berks County Parcels 39530520922142 (6.7 acres), 39531517020089 (Owned by William Whitman/Flying Hills Developer), and 39530504948160 (164 acres). The 6 acre lot provides access to Route 10 and was owned by Cumru Township who sold it to Mail Shark for $205K by sealed bid on Sept 18, 2018. The 164 acre lot was owned by Adventist Wholehealth which included land on both sides of Rt 10. The lot was divided and the portion East of Rt 10 was sold to Route 10 Realty (Mail Shark) for $1.2M on Oct 8, 2019. The remaining lot owned by Will Whitman provides access to Valley Stream Road but was later removed from the proposal due to environmental issues and is still owned by Mr. Whitman.
Mail Shark, under the name Route 10 Realty, LLC (also operating under Realty Strong LLC, and Targeted Solutions LLC) obtained 10 year open-end mortgages from Customers Bank against the lots. A $3.2M mortgage was taken against the 6.7 acre lot and $1.2M mortgage was taken against the 164 acre lot. An additional $1.241M mortgage was taken against the 164 acre lot presumably to fund the “gift” to Cumru to modify the intersection at Rt 10 and Freemansville Rd and install a traffic light.
Prior to the sale to Route 10 Realty, Adventist Wholehealth wanted to build a medical center on the lot but was refused because there was no safe access to Rt 10. Mail Shark also originally proposed a 3 phase development to include several production facilities and office space but did not move forward again due to restrictions on the land use.
The lots in question have been historically zoned as Rural Conservation. Mail Shark petitioned the Township on April 16, 2018 to have the zoning changed to General Industrial, which would allow a warehouse as a permitted use. The request included parcels 39530504945553 and 39530504844608. These parcels total 216 acres and would later be changed by the Township.
The Township recognized that only including these isolated parcels would create a zoning island so they added adjacent parcels in a probable attempt to create a contiguous industrial zone with parcels on the opposite side of the river. The owners of the added properties were not consulted and had little knowledge of the proposed zoning change until they attended a Township meeting. The other owners protested and the Township removed the parcels from the zoning change. The Township also added the 6.7 acre parcel still owned by Cumru because "a new owner might need it for Rt 10 access".
It appears the Township did the minimum required communication about the rezoning with notifications in the Reading Eagle and Township hearings. The initial notifications included the parcels below. On June 21, 2018 the Township modified the list of parcels and posted a revised notification in the Reading Eagle. The final rezoning was approved on July 31, 2018.
39530504945553 ICARUS PROPERTY HOLDINGS LLC 1 DAIRY CI
39530504844608 ICARUS PROPERTY HOLDINGS LLC 101 HOPE WAY LN
39530504838427 ENCOMPASS HEALTH REHAB HOSP OF RDG LLC 1623 MORGANTOWN RD
39531517020089 WHITMAN WILLIAM B VALLEY STREAM RD
39531517026179 HOBBS RONALD W & PATRICIA K 409 VALLEY STREAM RD
39530520922142 Cumru Township Rt 10 6.7
39531500062161 UKRAINIAN CATH ARCHDIO OF PHIL PHILADELPHIA AV
39530502975178 LASH KEVIN 1389 PHILADELPHIA AV
The resulting zoning created an island of General Industrial lots that are otherwise indistinguishable from the adjoining lots to the North and East, with High Density Residential (Flying Hills) to the South, and Agricultural to the West. This is commonly known as “Spot Zoning”.
Mail Shark Development
Mail Shark purchased the land originally assumedly to use themselves for their junk mail processing facility. The proposal included 3 phases, there was no timeline for the various phases.
Phase 1 – 22,000 sq ft Office Space; 218,000 sq ft Industrial
Phase 2 – 20,000 sq ft Office Space; 150,000 sq ft Industrial
Phase 3 – “Other Subdivided” 250,000 sq ft Industrial
A Traffic Impact Study was done for this proposal to include all 3 phases which was submitted to PennDot and approved. The PennDot approval contained several conditions including a new traffic light and road improvements at the Freemansville Rd. intersection. The Mail Shark plan was abandoned for unknown reasons but the Township and Mail Shark decided to proceed with the intersection improvements funded by a “gift” from Mail Shark to the Township.
NorthPoint became aware of the land which already had the needed zoning for a warehouse. Details of the progression of events are not fully known however it is assumed that Route 10 Realty and NorthPoint entered into an agreement of sale for the properties. Northpoint has quietly worked behind the scenes with the Township and other organizations to create the detailed development plans. This includes approval of a 10 year LERTA tax abatement, engineering recommendation to re-use the Mail Shark Traffic Study, final architectural drawings, stormwater management plans, etc. These detailed plans were formally submitted to the Cumru Planning Commission for approval on June 6.