Coolbaugh Moving to Confine Warehouses to Industrial Areas

SEP 20 2022, 8:30am

TOBYHANNA (Coolbaugh Township) – At their last meeting, the Coolbaugh Township supervisors moved forward on zoning amendments that would confine future warehouses and distribution centers to the industrial districts in the township, eliminating them from the C1 and C3 zoning districts.

The C1 district is along the route 196 corridor, while the C3 district runs most of the length of route 611 in the municipality. They unanimously passed a motion to advertise the amendments for a public hearing, which is the next required step before final adoption. The amendments also include provisions designed to encourage the development of a hospital in the town.

A controversial non-warehouse land development proposal was before the board at the same meeting. Sunset Trucking wants to build a 3,000-square-foot garage on the property at 788 Route 196 for the repair of the company’s trucks.

The property is located on the west side of the highway, about 2/10ths of a mile north of Echo Lake Road. Supervisors Alma Ruiz Smith and Joseph Rogan expressed concern about having tractor-trailers enter and leave that location, which is just above the so-called “hump” on 196. The hump is a section of the roadway that goes uphill and curves to the left for northbound travel, creating challenges for drivers, especially if there are obstructions or slow-moving vehicles immediately after the rise.

Ms. Ruiz-Smith expressed disbelief that PennDOT would approve the development plan without some sort of traffic control device. She called the section “the second most dangerous stretch” on route 196. A few days before the meeting, Mr. Rogan issued a statement via his Facebook page “going on the record now as in opposition” to the proposal. He also cited the “infamous deadly ‘hump’” as a major concern. Saying it was “an absolutely asinine location” for the repair garage, he said “this location is just an increase in fatal motor vehicle accidents waiting to happen.”

Ms. Ruiz-Smith said she did not intend to vote in favor of the development until she learns if PennDOT will approve access by trucks to that parcel off of 196. However, board chair Bill Weimer reminded members that they have no control over PennDOT decisions. Further, he noted, if PennDOT approves the plan, “there’s nothing the board can do. It meets the zoning requirements, they’ve meet everything else, they’ve met stormwater.” In the past, land development proposals that have met all township requirements and await only “outside agency” approvals, such as PennDOT’s highway occupancy permit, receive “conditional approval” from the township dependent on the outside agency’s approval. Supervisor Lynn Kelley said as a result of the massive numbers and sizes of recent development proposals, “we have become squeamish about condition approvals.”

The board voted to table approval. The vote was three to two, with Mr. Weimer and supervisor Clare Colgan voting against the move. The solicitor told the board that it may not be able to wait for a PennDOT decision. State law requires the board to make a decision on a land development application within 90 days unless the applicant agrees to extend the deadline for a decision. Currently, the board is operating under a waiver which ends on September 20 – the date of the next meeting. If the applicant does not agree to another waiver, the board will need to act. A failure to act would become a “deemed approval” under the law.

The general contractor for the approved 400,140 square foot warehouse at 1901 Corporate Center Drive (Route 196/Green Road) was on the agenda seeking a waiver of the noise ordinance to permit them to pour concrete. Under the township’s standard development agreement, the contractor can pour concrete 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until October 1, provided there is neither excessive noise nor light off the property. In addition to waiving the noise prohibition, the contractor asked permission to continue the operation through mid-November.

Supervisors decided they needed more information on the contractor’s plans, projected access routes for the concrete deliveries, the actual hours of operation, and more. Since the contractor was not present to answer the board’s questions, they voted to table the request until the next meeting.

The contretemps over fire service in Tobyhanna Township affects Coolbaugh Township and Coolbaugh’s fire chief addressed the board on changes they would need to make to coverage in some areas of the township as a result of the supervisors taking the Tobyhanna Township Volunteer Fire Company off the list of designated responders. The TTVFC has been the primary fire responder for portions of Coolbaugh Township which are physically closer to the TTVFC than they are to the Coolbaugh stations.
Chief Dobson told the supervisors that as soon as TTVFC was removed from dispatch by the Tobyhanna board, Coolbaugh made the Thornhurst fire company the primary for the areas which TTVFC handled. The Pocono Summit company was installed as the supplemental fire service company.

The chief told the supervisors that the impact of the Tobyhanna supervisors’ decision on Coolbaugh fire protection has already been mitigated and response times in Coolbaugh Township have not been adversely affected.

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