A hearing before the East Hanover Township Zoning Board previously scheduled for Wednesday, June 17, to vote on a variance request to allow construction on agriculturally zoned land has been postponed to Aug. 19.
According to township documents, Streamline Properties, Inc., 66 Racehorse Drive, Jonestown, filed a zoning permit application in March 2019 to construct a building for Streamline Concrete, Inc., and Streamline Builders, Inc. (Streamline) at 89 Racehorse Drive.
The request to build an 80’ x 200’ structure was denied by East Hanover Township (EHT) Zoning Officer Ed Wenger in an April letter to Streamline owner Bradley Bingaman.
In the rejection letter, Wenger wrote: “The proposed use of the property for purposes of operating a construction and concrete business is not a use permitted by right nor special exception within the Agricultural (A) Zoning District as defined within Article 6 of the East Hanover Township Zoning Ordinance.” The letter also notes that Streamline may “apply for a variance as appropriate.” (Wenger declined further comment to LebTown for this story.)
On Jan. 7, 2020, Streamline requested relief from the original ruling when it applied for a variance to allow the company to build a structure to house company headquarters and serve as a place to store, service and maintain equipment.
Streamline’s application says “the equipment will include, but may not be limited to, excavators, bulldozers, skid loaders, tri-axles and dump trucks,” and notes that some equipment would be stored to the rear of the building. “All service will be conducted inside the closed structure, and no manufacturing noise will be created,” the application reads.
Some local residents, however, believe the character of the neighborhood will be altered by allowing the proposal to be approved.
Neighbors have posted signage on their properties voicing their opposition to the project. A letter dated March 18, 2020, from Larry and Martha Shuey (obtained as part of LebTown’s documents request), says the character of the community will be changed if the variance is granted.
The Shueys, who live half a mile from the proposed building site, want zoning officials to oppose the project because they wish to “preserve the beauty and property value of the existing land owners.”
In a telephone interview with LebTown, Bingaman said the building he wants to construct will have no impact on agricultural production.
“I talked to the farmer who leases the land and who has been there forever, and he said, ‘Brad, you are not using prime farmland and you are not hurting anything ag-related,’” Bingaman told LebTown.
Bingaman said he wants to keep nearly all of the 50 acres he owns in agricultural production, adding that he plans to put up a “nice fence around the property and put cattle on the land” for his children to raise.
Founded in 2006, Bingaman said Streamline is a small, first-generation and locally-owned business that pumps between $3-5 million into Lebanon County’s economy annually.
“I keep everything local,” Bingaman said. “All my equipment I buy from local dealers, all my materials I buy from local people, and all of my employees live in the local community.”
A local resident himself for the past 15 years, Bingaman said he’s met with several neighbors to address their concerns about his proposed project. He added that after hearing what he actually plans to do, responses have been generally positive and added that some residents have removed their signs after speaking with him.
“I live there [on Racehorse Drive] and I’ve helped various neighbors with their projects over the years,” said Bingaman. “If anyone has a problem, stop in and talk to me and we can figure it out.”
Although Streamline will be open to clients and for appointments, the business is not intended to attract the public and will include the necessary off-street parking for all employees and a limited number of visitors. Concerning employees, Streamline said the company “employs between 15-20 individuals,” and the new building would serve “as the place of employment for all Streamline employees.”
Streamline variance request falls under Section 6.02 of the township’s zoning ordinance, which sets forth permitted uses in an Agricultural District. In its variance request, Streamline wrote, “While a business shop for a building and concrete contractor is not permitted by right or special exception, the ag district does allow up to five principal uses on a farm property (consisting of) between 10 and 50 acres.”
Streamline intends on keeping the agricultural use on the majority of the property while adding the business use, which would only encompass an area of approximately 1 percent of the area of the entire parcel.
“The remainder of the property that contains farm land will continue to be used agriculturally for crop fields. The wooded area making up the majority of the southern half of the property will not change,” according to the application.
Streamline’s appeal also says that a variance may be granted under Section 27.04 of the zoning ordinances where, “owing to special conditions, a literal enforcement of the provisions of this ordinance would result in an unnecessary hardship.”
The hardship, Streamline believes, is caused by existing woodlands that cover about 40 percent of the property, which prevent the owner from using the property solely for agricultural purposes.
“Such extensive woodlands upon an agricultural zoned tract is unique in the Township,” Streamline says, “especially in the area of the subject property.”
Streamline notes that the variance, if authorized, “will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood. In fact, the business use of the property will barely be noticeable from the exterior of the property. It will be surrounded by crop fields to the north, west and east, and by woodlands to the south.”
It’s at least the second time that a hearing to address the variance request has been continued.
The hearing was originally scheduled for Feb. 19 and then pushed back to June 17 at the request of the township’s zoning hearing board. Bingaman said he filed for the additional continuance due to COVID-19.
The statewide shutdown of businesses has pushed back work projects that Streamline is trying to complete in a timely manner for their clients and has made focusing on the variance request impossible at this time, according to Bingaman.
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