As Forks Township officials look to boost a struggling small airport, concerns also center on the best use of the land while mitigating traffic concerns.
J.G. Petrucci Co. Inc., which has an office in Bethlehem, presented a sketch plan for two restaurants, a café and a warehouse at Braden Airpark in Forks Township, said Erik Chuss, vice chairman of Forks supervisors.
The plan was part of a request to rezone the land to an employment center district, Chuss said. The rezoning would encompass a variety of uses, including office, light industrial and retail while also keeping the airport operating.
The two restaurants and café were planned for the northeast corner of the property, and the 350,000-square-foot manufacturing or warehouse facility would be on the west side of the property, Chuss said. No formal plans were presented, and Chuss said the township was not interested in moving forward with this sketch plan.
Martin Till of J.G. Petrucci said in an email that the plans depend on what the township wants and will approve.
Chuss said a lot of issues and concerns would need to be addressed before township officials agreed to rezone the property. It is zoned recreation, municipal and education.
“Basically, the township, what we feel is, we are open to ideas for the property, but because of the potential impact, this would be long-term planning and would take years to vet and come up with something,” Chuss said. “What we are always concerned about is its impact to residents and potential businesses moving in.”
There is quite a lot of employment center district land still available at Braden Airpark, Chuss said.
One of the main issues the township faces is the traffic impact, particularly on Uhler Road, which is on the north side of the airport, he said.
“We identified some short-term things we can do in order to rezone that land,” Chuss said. “We don’t want to make the traffic situation worse than it already is.”
Uhler Road serves as a major artery connecting to the nearby Route 33 interchange exit in Palmer Township. Trucks often take that route into neighboring Tatamy and through Forks to get to the business park off Kesslerville Road.
Sullivan Trail and Bushkill Drive could also present traffic problems with additional development.
The next step would be for Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, which owns and operates the land, to see what ideas or thoughts the organization had on developing the property, Chuss said.
While the township is open to the idea of rezoning the land, Chuss said it would have to be carefully studied.
“One of the things that we said would be most acceptable in the near term would be anything that helps the airport directly, anything that would be ancillary to the airport itself,” Chuss said.
This would include airport-related businesses, such as a true airport business or maintenance shop, he said.