Two city councilmen have spoken about the UPS distribution center set to come to 1 Red Lion Road.
Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10th dist.) pointed out that at 1 million square feet, the project is much smaller than early plans for the site, which showed a 1.85-million-square-foot facility.
Since the property was first purchased by Commercial Development Corp. early 2018, residents of Greater Bustleton Civic League have been opposed to the size and location of the project. UPS officially announced they were moving in to the property of the former 1.1-million-square-foot Budd Co. plant in February. It is expected to open in 2022. The company is still early in the planning and feasibility phase, a representative told the Times in February.
O’Neill pointed out the parcel of land is zoned industrial, meaning UPS is legally allowed to build the center there without undergoing civic design review.
“There’s opposing something as an opinion, and there’s having some leverage with your opposition, and they’re two different things,” O’Neill told the Times.
O’Neill compared the project to when a Teva Pharmaceutical plant was supposed to be constructed on the same parcel of land.
“When Teva was coming in the red carpet was rolled out,” he said.
He said that traffic is a concern, though without the results of the traffic study currently being conducted by PennDOT and the city streets department, there was nothing to have a firm opinion about.
“People I’ve talked to mention how bad traffic at rush hour is. That’s true for many areas of the city and Philadelphia area,” O’Neill said.
He said it is unlikely a company would send tractor-trailers into traffic during rush hour, but did not know the plans for sure.
“Until the company is willing to meet with the community and lay out its plan, everything is just a guess,” he said.
GBCL president Jack O’Hara announced UPS would hold an informational meeting with the community on March 31 at 7 p.m., likely at the American Heritage Federal Credit Union on Red Lion Road, but the location is subject to change. The meeting is expected to yield further information about the project. O’Neill said he previously told O’Hara that he would do anything within his power to help mitigate the project’s impact in the community once further information was revealed.
“I will support the community but I can’t support them for asking something impossible,” O’Neill said.
He did not confirm whether he would be at the March 31 meeting when asked.
At least week’s GBCL meeting, residents noted that a representative from O’Neill’s staff has not been present at recent meetings. O’Neill told the Times O’Hara no longer invites him to meetings.
The meetings are open to the community, O’Hara said.
“Other than the mayor, we have never sent individual meeting invites to elected officials,” he told the Times.
Councilman-at-large David Oh visited the GBCL last week to speak about actions that could be taken to give residents a larger say in the project, which will be located on a plot of land surrounded by residential homes.
Oh spoke about the possibility of him introducing a bill that would require large industrial projects such as this to have to undergo the civic design review. He did not have specific wording prepared yet.
Civic design reviews are optional to consider for industrial properties, but Oh said he could change the language so it is mandatory for certain projects that are a certain size or have a certain impact on traffic.
He also mentioned the possibility of closing roads to tractor-trailers at certain times of day or completely to accommodate neighbors.
Oh highlighted the legislation would still have to pass, and encouraged neighbors to voice their opinion to their elected officials if they supported it.
“We continue to ask our elected officials to represent our opposition. We are a volunteer community organization begging for help, and we shouldn’t have to,” O’Hara told the Times after the meeting.
GBCL meetings happen the at 7 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of every month at American Heritage Federal Credit Union, 2060 Red Lion Road. The next GBCL meeting is scheduled for March 25. The UPS meeting is open to the public and will happen Tuesday, March 31, at 7 p.m., likely at the same location.