Somerton Civic, O’Neill clash on warehouse project

Councilman O’Neill has denied holding back information about a plan for a massive warehouse at 1 Red Lion Road.

In this file photo from July 3, Somerton Civic Association president Chris Bordelon (left) and Jack O’Hara, president of the Greater Bustleton Civic League (right), spoke to residents during the first informational meeting concerning the former Budd Co. plant site at 1 Red Lion Road. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Last week’s Somerton Civic Association meeting began with a bang, as the group’s president and an aide to 10th District Councilman Brian O’Neill sparred over plans for a massive warehouse at the former Budd Company site.

SCA President Chris Bordelon said he was not pleased with an Oct. 16 information session about 1 Red Lion Road, the second meeting about the property co-hosted with the Bustleton Civic League.

Bordelon accused BCL President Jack O’Hara of cutting the session short and deleting slides that he said provided evidence that O’Neill has been aware of the plans for the controversial project.

Bordelon reiterated his belief that officials are holding back information and said SCA sent a letter to O’Neill asking for his help in combating the project. 

Alice Udovich, an O’Neill aide, stepped in and said Bordelon and other SCA board members have been accusing O’Neill of lying without proof.

There is a nondisclosure agreement involving the property, but Udovich said O’Neill is not a party to it.

“He’s been secretive about a project that he has no knowledge of because it hasn’t been publicly announced, nor has he seen plans,” she said.

O’Hara said representatives from Commercial Development Corp., which purchased the 138-acre site last year, told him they have been keeping O’Neill updated on the project. CDC has said it has not shared plans with city officials. 

Bordelon was annoyed O’Hara’s alleged conversations were not included in the Oct. 16 slideshow.

O’Neill did not attend the civic meeting, though, in an interview with the Northeast Times, he said he has been frustrated by claims that he is lying about his knowledge of the project.

“I have deliberately not involved myself in something I can’t find anything about anyway because there is a confidentiality agreement that is common in that industry,” he said.

Moreover, O’Neill said there is nothing that can be done to prevent a warehouse at 1 Red Lion Road because its zoning allows for industrial uses. 

“This is not something you can stop,” O’Neill said.

He said nothing can be done until a tenant is finalized for the warehouse. At that time, O’Neill said he would ask the company to meet with neighbors, and he promised to work with community groups to mitigate any impact.

O’Neill said he expects an official announcement on the tenant will come over the next few months.

Bordelon was spotted at Judy Moore’s Election Day party. Moore, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged O’Neill, made opposition to the warehouse project part of her campaign. 

As previously reported by the Times, early plans call for a 1.85-million-square-foot warehouse with 350 truck bays and 704 parking spaces that would operate 24/7.

Residents of Somerton, Bustleton and Lower Moreland have expressed opposition to the project.

Stevens Road project shot down, again

Attorney Michael Phillips speaks about a proposal to build housing on Stevens Road during the Nov. 12 Somerton Civic Association meeting. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

At least that’s been the approach taken by a developer hoping to build housing on a 1-acre wooded lot at 11934 Stevens Road. Twice, SCA members have voted to oppose the project, and residents voted against it a third time at the Nov. 12 meeting.

Originally, the plan called for 18 units, or nine twin homes, on the property, which has only 33 feet of street frontage and would require a private driveway. Then, it was cut to seven twins, and, last week, the plan called for eight single-family homes.

Attorney Michael Phillips, representing the developer, said his client wanted to lower the density of the housing while still keeping it a viable project.

“We feel this meets a compromise,” he said. “This is really the best plan we were able to come up with.”

Currently, the property’s zoning calls for one home, and it seems residents want one, maybe two houses on the site. Neighbors complained about traffic in the area.

Ultimately, the vote was 23-4 against the proposal. The Zoning Board of Adjustment allowed a variance for the project but decided to reconsider the result pending community input. It’s unclear when the board will render a final decision.

Other zoning issues

The SCA approved three other zoning issues at its Nov. 12 meeting.

A developer received support from the community to build two sets of twin houses on four parcels near Southampton Road and Damar Drive. The owner was granted a variance several years ago for the same project, but it lapsed.

The project needs a variance because the area is zoned for industrial use. A fifth parcel on the site will remain vacant for now, the developer said. 

Members voted to support a permit for an existing automotive repair business at 13440 Damar Drive that would allow it to stay open and sell vehicles abandoned by owners who don’t pay their bills.

Residents also decided to support an addition to a home at 15014 Endicott St. 

The Somerton Civic Association’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Walker Lodge of the I.O.O.F., 1290 Southampton Road. ••