FedEx facility expansion approved by Richland supervisors
Thursday, January 16, 2020 | 1:12 PM
Richland Township supervisors approved the expansion of a FedEx Freight facility while promising surrounding neighbors to hold the operators accountable for nighttime noise pollution at the Jan. 15 meeting.
The approval comes after two years of numerous appearances at township zoning board and planning commission meetings often attended by both representatives of the carrier and neighbors in close proximity to the facility who appeared to express their concerns.
“They’re not going to create noise where you can’t live in your house, I guarantee that,” board chairman Ray Kendrick told neighbors in attendance. “We’ll do whatever’s necessary to keep you people in your homes. They have an obligation to control the noise and as time goes on if it gets to the point they don’t, we’ll step in.”
The proposed modifications to the facility, which FedEx has owned approximately 20 years, include expanding the number of trucking bays from 47 to 85, paving what is currently gravel at the back half of the facility and adding additional parking. With regards to noise, representatives said they plan to install rubber floor plates on the new docks and retrofit the existing ones to help dampen the sound of the bay doors opening and closing.
“And FedEx will make a point of telling the drivers and employees at nighttime to be cognizant of the surrounding neighborhood,” said Shawn Gallagher of law firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, representing the company.
Neighbors at the meeting weren’t reassured by that promise, however, because they said they’ve made FedEx aware of the noise repeatedly and nothing has changed.
Tom Hehman, who lives on nearby Walcott Drive, has an app on his phone to measure decibels and recently shared with township manager Dean Bastianini that over a recent period of 16 days he documented 24 instances in which he recorded readings over 50 decibels.
“I can see FedEx from my back yard and its tractors backing up into trailers and slamming into the plates to hook and unhook the trailers,” he said. “It’s a huge noise, it sounds almost like a shotgun going off. Trucks are moving all around, picking up different trailers, moving them somewhere else, coming back and getting something else. They’re moving all around at all hours of the night, all night long.”
Ed Taylor, operations manager for FedEx Freight, said that the added bays should help with that issue.
“Pittsburgh is under a lot of what they call floor pressure,” he said. “There’s a lot of volume and not enough doors. So that’s why you hear banging all the time with them constantly pulling trailers off. Basically it’s playing musical chairs, moving things around so you can get to them. So now with these additional doors there will be fewer of those moves needed. They can just leave trucks sit there while they load and unload. They won’t be shuffling trucks all around the yard and onto the doors.”
Gallagher also said that the added bays will better address the current needs of the facility and not increase the volume.
“Everything we’re going to do is going to improve what already exists,” he said.
The company will replace all trees removed in the construction process, Gallagher said, which should also help with noise, and have addressed concerns about light pollution as well with measures including installing vinyl slats in the fencing in the areas where trucks’ headlights will be directed when accessing the fueling station. Gallagher also ensured that the fuel tank would meet all state and local requirements and receive routine testing for safety.
Ultimately, Bastianini said, FedEx has the right to develop its land according to township regulations, and has met all requirements. However, the township also has a responsibility to property owners, he said, and asked neighbors to continue to monitor the noise levels and make them aware of problems so they can make FedEx aware and try to work toward a solution.
“I think there will be noise violations,” Bastianini said. “It’s a trucking business and it’s loud noises. I want to try to eliminate them during nighttime hours. That’s the goal, realizing that we might minimize them to the greatest extent we can and we just ask for your cooperation because if not, we’ll be talking. Our residents expect that of us and it’s our responsibility to do that.”