On Friday, February 24, 2023, Middlesex Township made a significant decision regarding its renowned “Miracle Mile.” Township officials voted unanimously, with a 3-0 decision, to postpone a proposed redevelopment opportunity that could have transformed the Harrisburg Pike corridor. In a unanimous 3-0 vote, township officials turned down the idea of adding a new “redevelopment opportunity overlay” district to their land use map.
During the discussion, board members expressed their reservations about the proposal. Supervisor Steve Larson mentioned that he felt unprepared to approve the plan in its current form and needed more time to research the existing zoning regulations.
The proposal, presented by attorney Charles Courtney on behalf of St. Louis-based land development company CRG, aimed to create a comprehensive “super-zone” for the Harrisburg Pike corridor. This new district would have connected to both the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 81, making it an attractive location for various developments.
The area along the Harrisburg Pike has historically been home to truck stops, terminals, hotels, and restaurants. However, the proposal sought to revamp the area, which currently includes a mix of motels, truck terminals, vacant buildings, fast-food franchises, and an adult bookstore.
The proposed redevelopment opportunity district would have offered property owners greater flexibility compared to existing zoning regulations, potentially reducing the need for variances or special exceptions. Developers would have been required to meet certain architectural and screening standards and adhere to stricter traffic access controls on the Pike, which serves as State Route 11 through the township.
Courtney argued that similar overlay districts had successfully encouraged redevelopment in other municipalities, with interest already brewing along the corridor. However, many residents at the meeting voiced their concerns, particularly about the inclusion of warehousing and distribution as permitted uses within the overlay zone.
Residents, already contending with multiple truck stops, terminals, and warehouses in the area, were hesitant about introducing more truck traffic. Some felt that the proposed overlay was too extensive, running from the Silver Spring Township line to Wolf’s Bridge Road. They also expressed concerns about losing the checks and balances provided by zoning variances and special exceptions.
While some residents were open to a more limited overlay focused solely on Harrisburg Pike frontage, others viewed the proposal as an overreach onto their land. Courtney countered by highlighting that many existing uses along the Pike were established under more lenient regulations in the past and emphasized the need for incentives to encourage redevelopment.
Although the proposal was rejected, it remains uncertain whether the proponents will submit a revised plan. If they choose to do so, it would entail a fresh review by the Middlesex Planning Commission.
For now, Middlesex Township has opted to delay any significant changes to the “Miracle Mile” corridor, ensuring that community concerns are thoroughly addressed before moving forward.