From the rear of his Maxatawny Township residence, Rob Reynolds looks out on a vista of lush farmland first cultivated by Pennsylvania German settlers nearly three centuries ago.
Reynolds lives in a Georgian mansion built in 1783 by the Hottenstein family, prominent township residents in the 18th and 19th centuries.
A proposed development along Route 222, however, would drastically alter the landscape behind the Hottenstein Mansion.
Instead of fertile fields accented by a winding country road, Reynolds would look out on four warehouses totaling about 2.7 million square feet.
“Basically, we’d be enveloped by the whole thing,” said Reynolds, a professor at Kutztown University.
In May, Duke Realty submitted a preliminary subdivision and land development plan for Maxatawny Logistics Park.
The plan by Indiana-based Duke, which has warehouses in Bethel Township, would be the first major warehouse development in the Route 222 corridor in Maxatawny Township.
While subject to change, the planned logistics center would encompass a roughly 300-acre tract in the northwest quadrant of Route 222 and Long Lane.
Duke officials recently outlined the plan via Zoom at the August meeting of the township supervisors.
It has been reviewed by the Berks County Planning Commission and is under review by the township planning commission.
While approval of the township supervisors is required for the project to move forward, officials say a logistics park is a permitted use on the site under the municipal zoning ordinance.
Supervisors were unavailable for comment.
A timeline for development was not available, and it was unclear when votes would be held by the planning boards and the supervisors.
The township supervisors meet on the second Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the township building. The planning commission meets on the third Thursday at 7:30 p.m. also in the township building.
Burgeoning commercial strip
Maxatawny Logistics Park, a roughly milelong and half-mile-deep rectangle, would be part of a growing commercial sector in the township.
One end of the rectangle would be behind the proposed Rutter’s convenience store on the northwest corner of Route 222 and Long Lane, and across from a proposed Wawa on the northeast corner of the intersection.
Arby’s, Burger King and Valentino’s Italian Restaurant already occupy sites at Route 222 and Long Lane.
Running west from Long Lane, the logistics park would run behind Haldeman Ford, and extend westward almost to the Kutztown exit of Route 222.
Plans show a 1.1-million-square-foot warehouse paralleling Route 222, behind Rutter’s and Haldeman Ford.
Another 1-million-square-foot warehouse would parallel Hottenstein Road on the western end of the tract. Several years ago, the tract was the site of a proposed commercial development that was said to include a Walmart store.
Two smaller warehouses, each about 311,000 square feet, would be along the northern perimeter of the logistics park.
The plan calls for the realignment of Hottenstein Road, which now intersects with Route 222 next to the Hottenstein Mansion. To make way for the warehouse on the western end, the road would be diverted to the west and exit onto a roundabout on Route 222.
Ronald J. Young Jr. — PennDOT spokesman for the district office in Allentown, which oversees Berks County —said a review of a preliminary traffic study indicated that a roundabout would be constructed to accommodate traffic coming from the realigned Hottenstein Road. The roundabout, he said, would be constructed at the developer's cost.
PennDOT has plans to construct a roundabout at Long Lane and Route 222, east of the realigned Hottenstein Road. The project, which is in its final design stage, is expected to be put out for bids in summer 2022, Young said.
The plan also calls for the realignment of Hilltop Road, which currently exits onto Route 222 just east of the Kutztown off ramp. An official said residents and the developer are in discussions about dropping plans to reconfigure Hilltop Road.
As configured, the park would depend on water supplied by Kutztown and sewage treatment service from the Maxatawny Township Municipal Authority. Neither entity has yet committed to the project.
Logistics park layout
Contacted at its corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Duke Realty declined comment on the Maxatawny Township project.
“As a publicly traded company, we do not discuss proposed projects,” Duke said in an email.
The county planning commission review, forwarded to Maxatawny Township on June 16, provides details on the proposed project.
The Berks County Comprehensive Plan Update 2030 identifies the site as an economic development area.
“The proposal for the 11-lot consolidation and subdivision for six industrial lots and four lots developed with various sized warehouses is consistent with the Land Use and Economy sections of the Berks County Comprehensive Plan," the review concluded.
The project would eliminate wetlands and will require review by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers.
PennDOT highway occupancy permits are required for access points to Long Lane and Route 222.
“The developer should make sure that the existing roadways beyond the site, used for access to the site, are adequately designed to handle the proposed truck traffic,” the review said.
Four of the lots to be consolidated have been enrolled in Berks County’s Clean and Green program since 1994.
Duke’s proposed plan identifies the Kemp Burial Ground and notes “remains to be exhumed and relocated to off-site location,” said the review, noting that appropriate exhumation and relocation procedures should be followed.
The project should be coordinated with BARTA with regards to transportation services for the warehouses, the review recommends.
The Berks County Planning Commission’s Historical Resources Inventory identifies the site as lying within the Richmond-Maxatawny Township Rural Historic District and the Hottenstein Rural Historic District. Both districts are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The county’s Historical Resources Inventory also identifies the Kemp Farm, the Frank Tercha House and the Hottenstein Farm as historically significant structures. The Kemp Farm is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The county recognizes the importance of historic structures and impacts associated with them,” the review states. “Consideration should be given to how future development will affect the historic district.”