Ocean Spray's plan for a 315,000 square-foot bottling facility on 44 acres of land near Route 100 and Schantz Road are one step closer to reality after Wednesday night's conditional recommendation by the Upper Macungie Planning Commission.
Upper Macungie Township supervisors, following contentious debate last month, passed a zoning resolution that allows Ocean Spray to build a new bottling facility at the southwest corner of Schantz and 100.
Wednesday night's Planning Commission decision now gives supervisors the final stamp of approval, which could come as early as next month. The land pegged for development currently belongs to Jaindl Land Co.
A standing-room only crowd of mainly supportive residents packed the municipal meeting room for the Planning Commission session.
"It's been clear over the last 25 years that companies are migrating to Pennsylvania for a very effective climate. It's three things: reputation, infrastructure and facilities," said Erich Fritz, Director of Manufacturing Operations for Ocean Spray following the meeting. The company is moving operations from its current Bordentown, N.J. location.
Fritz addessed the gathering saying in part that the company wanted to be good citizens.
The $110 million project, which has the backing of Gov. Tom Corbett's office, is expected to bring 165 jobs into the Lehigh Valley.
Janet Smith of the Governor's Action Team, told the Planning Commission in a prepared statement that an Ocean Spray plant in Upper Macungie would be a long-term benefit and that the the governor's committee would continue to be supportive.
Public support was high as well. "In these economic times, I don't see how we can object to bringing these kind of jobs and this kind of tax base into Upper Macungie," said resident Robert Bauer.
Traffic, road cost and safety concerns are still the major concerns on the path to construction of the facility. Route 100 and Boulder Drive, Route 100 and Schantz Road and Route 100 and Industrial Boulevard are all concerns for some board members and township residents.
Resident Bob Fahy noted that one of the access roads comes within a few hundred yards of Fogelsville Elementary School.
However, Parkland Superintendent of Schools Richard Sniscak said he was apprised of the building plans and had no safety concerns. "This will be a huge benefit to the Parkland School District," he said.
Yet, some safety concerns lingered among board members.
"My concern is safety and I'm hoping your board is seriously considering dedicating some of the road and at the end of the day that Upper Macungie Township isn't left footing the bill," said commissioner Sam Ashmar, who also serves as a township supervisor. Ashmar noted some 52 accidents at the four intersections that would cross the Ocean Spray plant.
Planning Board chair David Etowski lamented how rushed the entire process was. "There's been a tremendous rush on this and when things get rushed, there are problems."
The recommendation for conditional recommendation to supervisors partially hinges on a traffic study that the township received this week and concerns that Fire Commissioner Grant Grim would like addressed.
Those conditions will be addressed before supervisors can give their final approval.