LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. - FOX 29 Investigates starts asking questions about big UPS trucks loading up in a quiet, residential neighborhood and gets results fast.
A local official stepped in once Jeff Cole showed her what FOX 29 captured on tape. Here's our investigation.
United Parcel Service, known as UPS, is the world's largest package delivery company.
UPS workers – in their signature brown uniforms, driving their big, brown trucks – seem to be everywhere… including backed up to the garage of a two-story home in a quiet, residential neighborhood in Chester County, Pa.
And the fellow who owns the home doesn't want to answer our questions about why we saw not one but two UPS trucks moving about his property at dusk like it were some kind of transport depot.
"Here's the question I have for you: Do you have an occupational permit that the town says is required?" Cole asked.
"You can talk to the district supervisor, OK?" responds Jeff Smith, the homeowner.
"And is this community zoned commercial in any way that would allow this to happen?" Cole followed-up.
"Call the district communications person," Smith responds.
What's going on? FOX 29 Investigates decided to find out after we were tipped by a source upset by the UPS trucks constantly idling or pulled up in this New London Township neighborhood of family homes.
Trish Fagan is the surprised zoning officer of this community of 5,600 people.
Cole: "Never got any heads up that this was going to happen on that street?"
Cole: "No one ever called you to tell you, 'Hey, we're gonna do this?'"
Fagan: "No, and usually…"
Cole: "This is a complete surprise?"
And that's a problem. Here's why.
On Tuesday at about 11:30 in the morning, we're tracking a U-Haul truck that has just pulled into Wheatland Farms development.
It winds its way along streets lined with new homes and backs up to a gray house.
Out jumps a UPS driver, who punches in a code opening the garage door, and for the next 15 minutes loads package after package into the garage of the private home.
Two hours later, the homeowner squeezes his truck into the garage where all those packages can be seen piled up.
We wait, watch, and just as night falls, one big, brown UPS delivery truck lumbers up to the home. And then comes a second.
The packages are moved to the front while one truck is pulled up to the garage and loaded. The other idles on the street.
The truck pulls out and waits while the other is backed up and loaded. Twenty minutes later, they pull away. Remember, this is a private home in a residential neighborhood, not an office or industrial park.
"I have to say, I've never run into anything like this, so it's new to me," said the zoning officer, Fagan.
We return the next morning to ask the UPS driver a few questions, if he shows. He does in the U-Haul around 11 a.m.
We watch him off-load some packages and make our move.
Cole: "Why would UPS be loading boxes into this private garage?"
UPS worker: "We're feeders, because the load gets so great in the busy season. So, our drivers do their pickups here, rather than drive all of the way back and waste money to go all of the way back to West Chester."
Remember, we saw the big UPS trucks move around this neighborhood at night like it were a depot.
"So, this is a private residence, and this would be a commercial activity. Who provides approval for this, any idea?" Cole asked.
"Our, no, our supervisors are, you know, this is how we save money, is to be able to do this," the worker said.
He stopped working and got on his phone in the truck, leaving the garage door open with the packages inside.
Before long, homeowner Jeff Smith, a UPS employee, drove up.
Cole: "I'm Jeff Cole.
Smith: "You actually can, uh, do you have any questions?"
Cole: "I'm with FOX 29."
Smith: "That's great. Do you have any questions?"
Cole: "I do."
Smith: "You can reach out to our district communications department."
Cole: "I will do that. … Jeff, are you zoned for any kind of commercial activity here?"
Smith: "I'm going to let you talk to the district communications manager."
Cole: "I appreciate it, but it's your home. So, do you have an occupational permit? I mean, the township tells that there needs to be an occupational permit. Do you have that?"
Smith: "I am going to give you the phone number."
Smith lowers the garage door.
We call UPS for answers and work the neighborhood while we wait.
We knocked on doors to learn what neighbors thought about all of this. Nobody would speak on camera. While one resident said she had not noticed the trucks, another resident said he sure had. He called it odd, weird and wondered about security at the house. And he said he was surprised that a big company like UPS wouldn't have a facility nearby to store packages.
At town hall, where we showed zoning official Fagan our video, we found the UPS driver sitting in his U-Haul. He drove off.
Cole: "Do they have licensure to do this?"
Fagan: "Not that I am aware of, no."
Cole: "So, if there's no license, can it happen?"
Fagan: "It's not supposed to."
Fagan says for this type of activity to be allowed in a residential neighborhood, there must be a hearing with a five-member zoning board made up of residents. An advertisement must be placed in the newspaper, alerting neighbors to the meeting for comment. She says the entire process can take two months, but it never happened here.
Cole: "This is important?"
Fagan: "Oh, definitely."
Cole: "And this is about public safety. You do this because you want residents to know, and you don't want a business operating that could jeopardize the safety of residents?"
Fagan: "Right, and also a quality of life issue."
Again, we tried to ask homeowner and UPS worker Jeff Smith what is going on.
"Have you told your neighbors that two UPS trucks would be out here at night, at dusk?" Cole asked him.
Smith responded, "You have a wonderful day, sir."
Fagan told us, "At this point they'll be told to cease and desist."
"They can't continue?" Cole asked. "You'll stop this? This isn't going to continue to happen?"
"Correct," answered Fagan.
And it did stop, immediately. Fagan says she told Smith to "cease and desist" in a phone call.
Smith told her it happens for 15 days during the holiday season, and he notified the homeowners' association.
Fagan repeated there was no zoning approval and said Smith and UPS wouldn't get it, Cole reported.
We received a response from UPS in Atlanta on Wednesday evening. Here's the company's statement:
To handle the additional package volume this time of year, UPS uses a variety of entrepreneurial solutions to ensure packages get delivered on time. In some areas of the country, UPS employees living in residential neighborhoods make available secure garage space as a temporary package transfer location for the UPS delivery personnel covering the neighborhood.
UPS works with local authorities and or HOA’s when necessary to obtain the appropriate permission. These temporary package transfer locations are in limited use during the UPS peak delivery season.
UPS is law-abiding and respectful to the communities we serve. The residential location in Lincoln University, PA in question is the home of a UPS manager. UPS has discontinued use of the location while local UPS operations works with the New London Township zoning office.