Somerton Civic President Chris Bordelon isn’t ready to say there has been a change in the “climate of secrecy” surrounding a controversial plan to build a massive distribution center at 1 Red Lion Road.
It was revealed earlier this month that UPS will be the tenant of a planned 1 million-square-foot warehouse at the former Budd Company site.
Bordelon said he recently turned down a meeting with representatives from Commercial Development Corporation, the property’s owner, and UPS, preferring that they meet with the entire Somerton Civic board.
Additionally, he told residents he would like more information about the project before convening with company officials.
“We shouldn’t forget the fact of this near silence for a year and a half in the face of the concerns we’ve raised,” Bordelon told residents at the Feb. 11 civic meeting. “I think we need information that’s clear and hopefully in writing and as shared with the public by the companies themselves.”
Bordelon said he is awaiting answers from CDC and UPS about any changes to the roadways or intersections near the site, the estimated timing of each phase of construction and the possibility of aircraft landing and taking off either from the warehouse or Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
UPS has said the center is expected to open in 2022 and a traffic study is underway.
Bordelon also wants to know where the project stands in terms of zoning, and whether it will need any variances, which could open the process up for community input and give the civic leverage.
“It’s very unlikely that we would be able to stop it,” he admitted.
A neighbor suggested the Somerton Civic try to get the companies to invest in the area by building a recreation center. Such perks are often part of community benefits agreements attached to large projects.
Bordelon urged elected officials to step up and give neighbors a voice. He maintained that 10th District Councilman Brian O’Neill could still introduce a bill requiring developers of large distribution centers to go through the zoning process.
O’Neill has said it is not possible to craft legislation preventing an industrial use on an industrially-zoned property.
Bordelon also worried about the spread of distribution centers in the Northeast. There’s a 200,000-square-foot warehouse awaiting a tenant at 3025 Meetinghouse Road, and, at the old IRS site on Roosevelt Boulevard, two distribution centers, including a 465,000-square-foot facility, are being built.
Developers looking to build warehouses have also scouted land behind the old firehouse at 1140 Byberry Road and next to the Arbours at Eagles Pointe, near Southampton Road and Roosevelt Boulevard, Bordelon said.
“These projects are going to generate a lot of traffic, including tractor-trailer traffic on our roads,” he told residents. “We ought to have the chance that the zoning variance process provides to have input into these projects.”
Last month, resident Timothy Worstall approached the civic with concerns about pedestrian safety along Edison Avenue near Somerton Station.
He came back Feb. 11 with a modest plan, put together by Will Fraser, transportation outreach coordinator for the Clean Air Council, to install a series of flexible delineator posts.
“I think this would be a great compromise for pedestrians, vehicles and the folks that have to go in and out of the parking lot,” said Worstall, who uses a cane to walk from his nearby condominium to the station.
Residents at the meeting seemed supportive of the idea, and Bordelon said the civic would contact O’Neill and relevant city departments to pursue the plan.
Fraser, in an interview after the meeting, said the posts would give pedestrians 5 feet of room along what Worstall has dubbed “the brim.” There is no sidewalk or curb.
It could be a temporary fix until something more permanent is installed, Fraser added.
“I don’t think there’s any reason why it can’t both be a safe area to walk and a safe area to drop off and pick up from vehicles,” he said.
There was one reported sexual assault and one reported incident of sexual harassment recently at George Washington High School, Joe Staszak, community relations officer for the 7th Police District, and school officials told the Times.
Staszak said there have been some daytime burglaries in the neighborhood. Bandits have been knocking to make sure no one is home and then kicking down a door or going through a window, he said.
He recommended locking all windows and installing doorbell cameras, which have helped police investigate these cases.
Catalytic converter thieves have recently begun targeting cars parked in lots at repair shops, Staszak said.
Civic members voted unanimously to support a zoning application for a homeowner who wants to add a second driveway to their home at 1901 Tomlinson Road.
Representatives from Cranaleith Spiritual Center, 13475 Proctor Road, spoke to residents. The center, which is overseen by the Sisters of Mercy, hosts a variety of spiritual programs and weekly events. Volunteers help grow vegetables and fruit on the property’s 10 acres. For more information, visit cranaleith.org or call 215-934-6206.
The Somerton Civic Association’s next scheduled meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, at the Walker Lodge of the I.O.O.F., 1290 Southampton Road. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.