Residents, officials discuss Red Lion property

Somerton and Greater Bustleton civic leagues hosted an informational meeting about the site at 1 Red Lion Road, which is strongly believed to be the future home of an ecommerce distribution site.

Staying informed: Somerton Civic Association president Chris Bordelon (left) and Jack O’Hara, president of the Greater Bustleton Civic League (right), speak to local residents during an informational meeting concerning the former Budd Co. plant site at 1 Red Lion Road. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

350 truck bays, 1.9 million square feet and $300 million.

These were some of the key figures discussed last week at an informational meeting concerning the industriall zoned site at 1 Red Lion Road. The Somerton and Greater Bustleton civic leagues joined together for a presentation concerning what is known to be happening at the site of the former Budd Co. plant site.

In March 2018, it was announced that the 138-acre vacant property had been purchased by Commercial Development Corp., which purchased the land from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. for $18 million. Since then, little information has been communicated about the site, though Commercial in March described it as the “largest development-ready tract of land in the Philadelphia market” in a press release.

The same press release says CDC’s site plan includes three modern industrial buildings totaling up to 1.85 million square feet in size.

“There isn’t any big announcement and I can’t tell you this is absolutely going to happen,” said Jack O’Hara, president of the Greater Bustleton Civic League, at the beginning of the meeting. He presented alongside Somerton Civic Association president Chris Bordelon.

“There’s a lot we don’t know, but we’re trying to stay away from speculation,” O’Hara said.

The site has been a topic of discussion for both civic associations since its announcement. O’Hara stressed the associations aren’t inherently opposed to the project, but they want more information.

“There is just a complete void of detail on it,” O’Hara said.

Much of the conversation focused on the impact the site would have on traffic. Site sketches show one building totaling 1.2 million square feet and two more buildings at 326 and 343 square feet. The larger building contains 240 truck bays, with an additional 54 and 56 truck bays in the two smaller buildings, for a total of 350. That’s in addition to 704 other parking spaces on the site. According to the plans, all trucks would enter from Sandmeyer Lane.

O’Hara stated that nondisclosure agreements had been distributed concerning what exactly is coming to the site, but said he did not know who signed them. Councilman Brian O’Neill, whose name came up during the meeting as the property is in his district, told the Times he had no knowledge of the project.

“Nothing that can happen there can be more than what Teva was trying to do,” O’Neill said. When Teva, an Israeli-based pharmaceutical company that makes one in six generic drugs sold in the country, brought the property, in 2011, it intended to create three buildings totaling 1.1 million square feet.

“There will definitely be added traffic because there’s been no traffic in that area,” he said.

O’Neill said there was nothing he could “support or oppose” about the property as long as it abides by the zoning code, but that when plans are officially announced he would “do everything he could” to organize a meeting with residential and business neighbors with the company to have their voices heard.

There has been activity already on the site, with a mound of dirt dubbed “Mount Somerton” by neighbors recently appearing, which O’Hara speculated will be spread out over the entire parcel as a soil cap.

Rob DeMartinis, president of the Lower Moreland Board of Commissioners, was in attendance of the meeting and said the site is polluted with PCBs, industrial chemicals that were banned in the country in 1979. He said the soil cap will actually help everybody by preventing anyone from being contaminated, because someone can be poisoned from a PCB only if they consume it, such as if it gets into a water source and is consumed by fish.

“Our interest lies in the fact of this traffic and everything that’s going to develop from it,” he said. “I worry about noise, I worry about emissions, I worry about traffic flow, and I worry about the fact ecommerce generally means tractor trailers to a location, smaller vehicles out.”

To give perspective on the size of the site, Bordelon compared it to the former Budd plant, which was 1.1 million square feet, Citizens Bank Park, which is 1.15 million square feet, and Lincoln Financial Field, which is 1.7 million square feet. ••