Distribution center, warehouse proliferation discussed at Madden town hall

TANNERSVILLE, Sept. 19 – Welcoming over 100 residents to her legislative town hall on Saturday, state Rep. Maureen Madden hosted a lively discussion about a variety of topics over two hours at Northampton Community College’s Monroe Campus.

Madden, a Democrat who represents the 115th Legislative District in Monroe County, welcomed a pair of special guests to speak on one of the region’s most pressing issues, the proliferation of distribution centers and warehouses.

Taylor Muñoz, Pocono Township manager, and Dr. Alex Jackson, Brodhead Watershed Association executive director, joined the representative in the campus’ Pocono Hall to lend their expertise on the topic.

“The building of warehouses and distribution centers is among the biggest issues important to those of us in Monroe County, and I’m grateful to Mr. Muñoz and Dr. Jackson for taking time out of their Saturday to talk about what we’re doing in the Poconos to ensure these structures are built responsibly and in environmentally friendly ways,” Madden said.

“We were also able to discuss legislation like the expansion of the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, my own legislation to expand county jail access to opioid addiction treatment medications, and, of course, school funding. We had a lively Q&A after the presentations, and I look forward to more town halls because they present a great way for everyone to come together, speak up on issues important to them and become involved citizens.”

Muñoz, who’s been manager of Pocono Township since 2020, said his township took a decisive and measured approach to regulating warehouse activity and its resulting impact on the community.

“Through partnerships with concerned citizens, the County Planning Commission and our Pocono Township professionals, we were able to intentionally consider a variety of ways to limit their development to specific areas where they would have the least impact on our residents and infrastructure,” Muñoz said. “We are hopeful that other municipalities will follow our approach and that our ordinance serves as a model for other townships to proactively address and plan for warehouse activity so that they are not playing from behind once projects are proposed in their jurisdiction.”

Jackson, who has a doctorate degree in organismal biology, joined the Brodhead Watershed Association in 2021 and has documented and compiled a comprehensive map of old-growth forests in southern Monroe County.

“BWA’s point is that we need to reconsider our zoning maps, or at least do an analysis as a municipality to determine what impacts to resources are hardened by the simple fact that the township elected officials may be directing certain uses to areas of the township that are incompatible due to environmental constraints like streams and wetlands,” Jackson said. “BWA urges municipalities to utilize the Plan for Clean Water to analyze resource metrics, and we would certainly be willing to be part of a process in analyzing that and being part of making recommendations to local elected officials.”

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is expanding in 2024 thanks to legislation authored by state Rep. Steve Samuelson that was signed into law by Gov. Josh Shapiro this summer. Madden was a primary cosponsor of the bill, H.B. 1100.

And her own bill to assist county jails with treating opioid addiction, H.B. 1515, passed the House with broad bipartisan support earlier this summer and awaits action in the state Senate.