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Home values will drop, air pollution will increase, warehouse opponents say

By Joe McDonald, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 10 2014 09:05:38 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 11 2014 05:53:50 AM CST

Plans for a major warehouse in Lower Nazareth Township are back on track Monday.

LOWER NAZARETH TWP., Pa. -

Lower Nazareth Township supervisors listened to five hours of testimony Monday night from witnesses who claimed that if a proposed warehouse is built off Route 33, it will damage home values and air quality in the area.

It was the second public hearing the supervisors have held on a plan by Industrial Developments International to build a warehouse with 182 tractor bays, which can handle 522 tractor trailers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A third hearing is scheduled for Thursday, with testimony resuming at 4 p.m.

According to William T. Stoerrle Jr. of Bethlehem, the noise and the diesel fumes from the truck traffic in and out of the 822,500 square foot building would decrease the value of nearby homes by about 11.5 percent, or $38,400.

Stoerrle said if the tractor-trailers were left idling five minutes an hour, as is permitted, by his calculations based on the 522 daily tractor trailer traffic, that would equate to two tractor trailers running all the time.

The supervisors also listened to a lengthy presentation on the latest studies of “particle pollution,” notably small particles that are too small to see but can cause health problems linked to heart and lung diseases, heart attacks, decreased lung function, asthma and other ailments.

Breena Holland, an associate professor of political science at Lehigh University, said the Environmental Protection Agency has classified diesel exhaust as a “likely carcinogen” when inhaled.

Research studies have suggested there should be a buffer of about 1,500 feet from the source of such fumes.

She said there are many houses within much less than 1,500 feet of the proposed warehouse with 27 houses on Val Vista, Fischer, Clearview and Hecktown Road.

There are another 19 houses on Oxford, Crestmont and Robin Road and another seven on Newburgh Road.

Holland said Northampton County in particular and the Lehigh Valley as a whole already fails to meet the “fine particle standards” set by the EPA.

Approving the warehouse terminal and its fleet of hundreds of tractor-trailers would only add to the pollution problem the region already has, she said.

“I don’t think it should be approved in my professional opinion,” Holland said.

Gary Asteak, the board’s solicitor, said the board will write a decision within 45 days after testimony is closed.

Testimony could spill into March if a snow storm on Thursday closes the Lower Nazareth Elementary School, where the public meetings have been held.

The parcel in question is already zoned for light industrial use and IDI is seeking conditional use approval for the warehouse.