To the Editor:
The “Water not Warehouse” signs all over Milford Borough are indicative of the breadth of opposition to the ill-conceived massive warehouse project proposed for Milford’s Route 6/I-84interchange. But the signs aren’t enough, nor are the many emails and calls to officials, or residents showing up at township hearings and meetings. To permanently protect Milford’s water supply, the at-risk properties must be acquired by a public agency, or irrevocable easements imposed to strictly limit development so it does not harm the aquifer.
The Milford Water Authority has the power of eminent domain to condemn and take private property when there is an overriding public interest at stake. I urge them to pursue this option.
There are multiple federal and state governmental funding sources for watershed protection, and we have representation in Washington and Harrisburg that will assist in efforts to secure such funding. There also are private foundations that support watershed protection measures.
If the Milford Water Authority ultimately had to borrow required funds, they can borrow at very low rates (<2%) from PennVest, a state agency, and pay off that financing through a surcharge on its ~900 customers.
We enjoy a pristine water supply and are fortunate that our Water Authority has been well-managed, with very little deferred maintenance and not too much debt. A reluctance to utilize eminent domain powers is understandable; no government agency should do so casually.
But what is a more overriding public interest than protecting our water? If that isn’t a reason to use eminent domain, what would be?
The current project under consideration is massive: a 450,000 square foot building, plus around400,000 additional square feet of parking areas. That is 19 acres of lot coverage with impervious surfaces; Milford Borough itself is only 22 acres.
There are already plans in the works for similarly-sized or larger warehouses on the Dingman Township side of the east side of the interchange (in back of Milford Professional Park) and possibly for the remaining two corners, on the west side of 84.
Thirty-five years ago, a regional shopping mall was proposed for the site, which the developers, apparently without irony, proposed to name after Gifford Pinchot, the father of the Conservation Movement. It was eventually defeated when the Sawkill Creek was upgraded by the state to be considered “exceptional value.” More recently, a Home Depot was proposed for the site, which wasn’t so much defeated as the company ultimately decided to build in Westfall Township instead.
If these lands remain available for this type of development, there will certainly be more applications. Large-scale developers can bring legal and financial firepower than dwarfs the resources of the local community to combat. The developers will persist, however. They will wait it out and litigate as necessary, because there is a good chance they will ultimately win, unless we take steps now to protect the watershed permanently.
What more precious gift could we give to future generations of Pike Countians! Let’s stop thinking about this in terms of whether one is “for or against the warehouse project.” We should reframe the question as whether one is “for or against permanently protecting Milford’s water supply.”
Sean Strub, Mayor