The ground may be cold but battles over land use in Central Pennsylvania are heating up.
- Residents and developers are clashing on several fronts across the region.
- Not surprisingly, proposed warehouses are among the sharpest points of contention.
- Large-scale solar projects have triggered outcries, as well.
- But disputes also have arisen over housing, most notably in Lancaster city, where a nonprofit developer is hoping to build affordable apartments near a former hospital.
Why is this happening: Low interest rates spurred a raft of projects across the region over the last few years.
- Housing has been in high demand, driving interest in new apartments and townhomes.
- Sustained demand for warehouse space also has fed construction projects, with million-plus square foot distribution centers cropping up on a regular basis.
- Developers also are keen on opportunities to develop clean-energy projects near the high-voltage power lines that crisscross Central Pennsylvania.
What’s in store: Warehouses often spark opposition from neighbors concerned about truck traffic and questioning the need for more distribution space.
- One recent proposal involves a roughly 1 million square-foot warehouse proposed for Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County.
- Neighbors came out to a zoning meeting last week to oppose the project, pitched by California-based Panattoni Development, according to Pennlive.
- Another involves a proposal from York-based Inch & Co. to erect a warehouse near a cemetery in Manchester Township, York County.
- No formal plans have been submitted. But, citing a real estate listing for a proposed warehouse, nearby residents have been voicing opposition on Facebook, at township meetings and through yard signs.
- Other warehouses are in the works.
- Missouri-based NorthPoint Development, for instance, has filed plans for a three-warehouse complex spanning roughly 2.6 million square feet on about 200 acres of farmland south of Canal Road near Interstate 83 in Manchester Township, York County.
Where do they find the energy: Dover Township was the site last summer of a pitched battle over zoning for an industrial-scale solar project covering about 600 acres.
- Despite a groundswell of opposition from neighbors, zoning officials approved the 75-megatt project last summer.
- The developer, Enel North America, said it plans to submit formal land development plans in late spring, which would present another opportunity for challenges.
- “We look forward to continuing to work with the local community to bring the benefits of this project to fruition,” said Jared Foreman, development manager, east region, for Enel.
- Conflict also is likely over a proposed hydroelectric project in Chanceford Township, York County, along the Susquehanna River.
- The $2.1 billion project calls for a reservoir and a system of dams, dikes and turbines that would generate power when needed.
- Ted Evgeniadis of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association told the York Dispatch his organization is exploring ways to oppose the project while it is before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
What about housing: Examples include the dispute over an affordable apartment building slated for 213 College Ave. in Lancaster, across the street from a former UPMC hospital.
- Neighbors have filed a challenge to the project’s zoning approval, arguing that the 67,000 square-foot building would be too big for the neighborhood.
- Now, the developer, Lancaster-based nonprofit HDC MidAtlantic, is warning that a protracted legal fight could jeopardize funding for the project, which is relying on a mix that includes grants and tax credits, according to LNP.
What’s next: Rising interest rates could erode the appetite for larger-scale development, since higher rates translate into higher borrowing costs for developers.
- Nonetheless, at least one group of forecasters sees growth this year in nonresidential construction.
- That would be a panel of economists convened by the American Institute of Architects.
- The institute’s consensus construction forecast panel predicted spending growth of 5.8% this year, followed by an uptick of less than 1% in 2024.
- Growth rates could vary across sectors, the panel said, with spending on industrial facilities expected to rise 15.1% this year, compared to 2.6% for commercial buildings.
- Meanwhile, local officials continue to field requests to rezone farmland for commercial and industrial uses.
- At a meeting on March 16, for example, Hellam Township supervisors are scheduled to consider rezoning a nearly 24-acre tract on Campbell Road south of East Market Street.