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Cornwall Borough Council on Monday heard a presentation from representatives of Cornwall United 4 Responsible Development proposing “The Citizen’s Text Amendment” to the zoning code.
The text amendment would remove “public warehousing” as a permitted use for the Limited Industrial (LI) district and add it as a permitted conditional use to the General Commercial (GC) district.
Jeremy Zimmerman of Cornwall United argued that Cornwall’s zoning code is antiquated, and a more modern zoning code would not include distribution centers as a possible use for LI.
Cornwall’s zoning code is over 15 years old and has had limited modifications over that time. While council considered an update, they agreed to wait to revisit the code until the Regional Comprehensive Plan is updated.
Cornwall joined the Cornwall-Lebanon Regional Comprehensive Plan last year.
Public warehousing, traditionally, did not include extensive truck traffic, the group argues, and modern distribution centers (and the traffic generated by them) fit more neatly into the GC district, which also includes transfer trucking facilities.
The GC district makes up less than 100 acres across all of Cornwall, without any lots large (and contiguous) enough to build the type of plan presented by Byler Holdings. None of the GC tracts in the borough are currently owned by Byler. The GC land in the borough is also more developed, some as residences, compared to the GI tract which is undeveloped. The amendment may render the group unable to develop warehouses on the property.
Cornwall United was formed in response to the plan presented by Byler Holdings for the property around the Cornwall quarry.
Byler Holdings presented two informal plans last year; the first including around 700,000 square feet total of small warehouses in its LI district.
Warehousing is currently a use allowed by right in LI districts, so council cannot deny Byler the right to develop the land into warehouses if other zoning requirements are followed.
However, there has been some speculation, including in a document presented by Zimmerman, that Byler Holdings is not legitimately considering warehouses in the LI district due to the distance from major roadways.
“Theory exists that there is no plan to build a warehouse in the LI, only to threaten to do so to reap the financial windfall of a larger warehouse in the GI district,” reads the document.
The second plan presented by Byler requires the council’s cooperation to pass a text amendment allowing a warehouse of around 800,000 square feet in the GI district. Drafts of the text amendment also include the addition of “lake resort community” to the LI tracts directly adjacent to the quarry.
Last month, the council agreed to consider the text amendment and direct the ad hoc committee formed last year to begin discussions with Byler Holdings on a mutually agreeable solution.
They have not committed to the proposed text amendment and have the freedom to abandon negotiations at any time.
Solicitor Josele Cleary noted that if the council were to consider the Citizen’s Text Amendment, it would take at least 60 days for it to be enacted.
It would need to be referred to both township planning and zoning as well as county planning for notes, both requiring at least 45 days of their consideration. Then, the amendment would require a public hearing before its passage.
Cleary said the earliest the amendment could be put to a decision would be the council’s Dec. 11 meeting.
While the council did not discuss the amendment in depth, the board unanimously agreed to refer it to the ad hoc committee for their review.
As of now, Byler Holdings is still legally entitled to develop warehousing in its LI district, and if plans are submitted before the passage of this text amendment, courts would most likely uphold this right.
Not all in the audience were in support of this text amendment, with some in opposition calling Cornwall United’s talking points “propaganda” as Byler Holdings has the right to build a warehouse on that property.
Julie Bowman of Cornwall United also spoke regarding the minutes of Cornwall’s meetings and procedures surrounding changes to zoning.
She argued that meeting minutes do not reflect the negative comments or concerns voiced by members of the public in meetings over the last year.
Cleary said that the Sunshine Act only requires minutes to include a meeting’s date, time, place, members, votes and all actions/rollcalls, and the names of citizens appearing officially and the subject of their testimony.
Cornwall Borough, she said, goes above and beyond these requirements in its minutes (available here).
Bowman also said that she feels the council has been inconsistent with their handling of proposed text amendments and urged the council to define specifically the purpose of the ad hoc committee.
Council vice president Bruce Conrad said he would write something up to that effect.
The council also announced updates with regards to the ad hoc committee.
While they agreed last month to begin meetings of the committee, township manager Cody Rhoads said Byler Holdings has asked to delay the first meeting to give them time to make a decision.
Council also announced that one of the four citizen members of the committee resigned, and that Karen Groh, Cornwall resident and president of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, has been selected to take his place.
In other news, the council:
- Unanimously agreed following a meeting with PennDOT to send PennDOT a letter listing their priorities in Cornwall, in order, as the intersection of Spring Hill Lane and SR 72, Cornwall Center, and the intersection of SR 322 and SR 72.
- Unanimously authorized Civil Service to advertise for police officers. The department is seeking two or three full-time officers.
- Discussed dead trees along public roads and agreed to send residents letters drawing their attention to dead trees on their property without threat of legal repercussions from the borough.
- Unanimously agreed to further the process of a Verizon tower to be installed on borough property, with a starting cost of $20,400.
- Unanimously agreed to Resolution 2023-8 setting police pension contribution at 1 percent.
- Unanimously agreed to release letter of credits in varying amounts for 60 Anthracite and 290A Rexmont.
- Unanimously authorized Trick or Treat night to take place Oct. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Unanimously approved minutes and reports.
Cornwall Borough Council meets the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. These meetings are open to the public and do not require prior registration.