Cleaning supply firm clears hurdle for expansion in Upper Providence

UPPER PROVIDENCE — An established cleaning supply wholesaler with plans to relocate within the township received conditional use and tentative land development approval to construct two buildings on three adjoining vacant lots.

Sheppard Redistribution currently operates a warehouse with 52 employees in the former Fleming Food facility at Egypt and Green Tree roads, with management offices on Schell Lane.

During a June 2 public hearing, township resident William Sheppard shared development plans that would double his company’s operations at the Volpe Lane/Hollow Road intersection, south of Schell Lane. Sheppard intends to construct an 180,000-square-foot warehouse and an 8,000-square-foot ancillary building on a partially improved 20.6-acre site as early as spring 2015.

The proposed L-shaped distribution center, with a 250-foot depth, would share a private roadway with two other truck terminal companies. Volpe Trucking operates immediately south of Sheppard’s property which is across Volpe Lane from the former FedEx complex, now under renovation by Pitt-Ohio. The smaller ancillary building would store extra equipment and property maintenance equipment and for the landowner’s personal use.

Sheppard, who lives than two miles from his new property, reminded the board that his family operated the comparable Peerless Paper Mills, a 102-year-old company on Longford Road for 35 years. He told the supervisors “we sell pretty much anything to do with cleaning and maintaining buildings. We do not sell to the public. We sell only to distributors who in turn sell to end-users. We have zero retail sales.” Nothing toxic or hazardous will be maintained and company policies ensure compliance to all appropriate safety sheets.

Blue Bell attorney Mike Clement described the two primary lots as “condominiums” with a third attached narrow three-acre lot that would be subdivided from the adjacent undeveloped Gambone property on the rear/western edge. Clement explained the township approved land development plans for those two lots that have since been partially site development improved with over million dollars held in escrow. Public water, sewer and utility services are available. In lieu of storing fuel on the property, drivers will fill up in King of Prussia at either Penske or Ryder facilities.

Engineer Paul Yaskowski explained the new building with a rear-loading zone would be situated where 58,000-square-foot and 52,000-square-foot building sites were approved. He described benefits of leveraging previous plans including reducing development impact by preserving infrastructure, storm water, and grading improvements. “This building, we shoehorned in there to fit directly over the plateau that was already graded out and in doing so we were able to use the existing access drive that was graded in, the existing loop that was around it and some the parking that was originally proposed.”

Clement stressed, “this is the general plan we’d like to propose but there are possible changes.” Although the buildings locations and adjacent 117 parking spaces segmented from the truck traffic will remain the same, the final design of the internal roadway is not final. One set of plans shows all truck traffic circulating from the eastern entrance to the rear loading area while a second drawing shows a counter clockwise circumnavigation pattern around the warehouse as recommended by drivers who want to look out of their windows while backing into the dock areas.

The conditional use of a wholesale business is compliant with township zoning code because the property exceeds the minimal acreage and public road frontage requirements.

Truck traffic along Hollow Road would increase because between four and 17 trucks are expected to deliver and pick up custom orders daily. Initially 14, with the potential for up to 22 company trucks, would depart the site by 6:30 a.m. and return less than twelve hours later. The office would operate 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Pottstown traffic planning engineer Frank Montgomery shared details of his traffic impact study including peak hour traffic volumes for roadways, intersections, and interchanges within a half mile Sheppard’s property. The nearby FedEx/Pitt-Ohio trucking terminal was vacant when the report was published last July.

Montgomery described signage placed at the Hollow Road bend as “shiny” and “retro reflective” directing unfamiliar truck traffic straight out of Volpe Lane and up Hollow Road “I believe it does a very good job demonstrating that you are not to turn right down Hollow Rroad because there is a ten-foot clearance for a railroad structure.”

When Montgomery reported, “our study indicated the impact of this site is negligible on the current intersections,” Supervisor Phil Barker asked for clarification.

Montgomery replied “negligible, less than a second delay” and “in this instance there is a lot of capacity available with the extended center turn lane now I’m comfortable with trucks that may start to queue up and turn down that there is significant stacking.” Barker said, “I’m glad you’re comfortable, but I have to be comfortable.”

Fred Schell who lives on Hollow Road between Schell Lane and the roadway bend referred to Montgomery’s statement. “He mentioned the signage there at Hollow Road was sufficient. I can tell you for a fact it is not. Truck drivers cannot read. They cannot follow directions.” Schell asked if a sign could be installed at the company’s entrance to guide unfamiliar drivers onto the Sheppard property to prevent delivery drivers from turning in front of his property. He has had the same discussion with Pitt-Ohio representatives. “It’s not the company’s trucks that are the issue.”

The board unanimously approved the plans with conditions including Solicitor Edward Skypala’s recommended wording for the plans that will require a regional detention basis before the balance of the Gambone property is developed.