Business park owner wants to build warehouse that could force existing tenants out

SVN Imperial Realty, owner of Airport Road Commercial Park at Route 329 and Airport Road in East Allen Township, has requested approval from the township to allow for construction of a 245,000 warehouse in the park.

Tom Skeans, managing partner at SVN, a commercial real estate agency in South Whitehall Township, said septic issues prompted the need to build a warehouse on the site.

The move would force the businesses to vacate.

“We are processing a conditional use approval to build a warehouse there,” Skeans said.

He is not seeking land development approval at this time, he added.

Skeans said the buildings in the park are about 40 years old and their septic systems need replacement.

“We have had issues,” Skeans said. “They are all at the end of life.”

While the septic systems are not failing, he did say they would fail in time.

His firm, which also owns a nearby retail strip center, designed a new septic system to serve that building and has available land next to it to perform the work for that project.

However, Airport Road Commercial Park is a different story.

“The rest of those buildings are on lots but are not big enough to meet the current standards of what it takes to build a septic system today,” Skeans said.

While Skeans said he has the right of way to connect the park to a public sewer system, he said he does not see a path forward for doing that.

Skeans said some of the businesses might remain once the project to replace the septic systems begins. Ideally, he said he would like to relocate all the tenants.

Brent Green, administrator for East Allen Township, said the township has to post a public notice in advance of the public hearing on the conditional use request, which took place Wednesday. Skeans said he tabled the meeting and requested to continue it on May 8.

Green said the township did not send any letters to the tenants other than the public notice posted on their properties.

About a week ago, Daryl Robbins, president of Wheel Collision Center, a tenant in the park, said he had seen the public notice posted on his property regarding the plan.

Green said township officials have been hearing that the tenants experienced malfunctions with their septic tank. Whether the owner demolishes the business park or not, the owner would still have to provide a new septic system, he said.

Robbins said his business has been a tenant of the park since 1990 and has about 20 employees. The company uses three buildings at the site to repair, refurbish and sell wheels. A move could potentially put the company out of business, he said.

“We have machinery and exhaust ducts, it’s a whole production facility we have here,” Robbins said. “We couldn’t be down for two months.”

Even if the company moved into the new building once construction is complete, Robbins said it could take six months, and the production facility would be down for that time. His facility includes a crane, wash bay, powder coat oven, paint booth, compressor shed and other items.

He said he does not know how much it would cost to replace or rebuild the equipment if needed.

“If we had to move our operation, all that infrastructure to support each station would have to be rebuilt,” Robbins said. “We could be out of business for months even with our best efforts. For us, there’s no simple solution.”

Sales comprises about 70 percent of the business, he added.

He described the potential move as disconcerting and is hoping the company can gain enough influence to avoid having the owner demolish the park.

“To us, it’s an unfriendly gesture,” Robbins said. “I can see where they can make more money in the long run.”

Skeans said he has had conversations with tenants already but does not have much to talk about with them until he has conditional use approval from the township.

The new building is speculative, he said.

If the township approves conditional use, the project would have to go through the land development process and earn approvals before construction would start.