LOWER MACUNGIE TOWNSHIP, Pa. - A large housing development is being proposed on the northwest side of the intersection of Cedar Crest Boulevard and Lower Macungie Road in Lower Macungie Township.
If eventually approved by the township, a total of 153 age-restricted homes will be built on 54 acres of what is called the Farr tract.
On Thursday night, representatives of K. Hovnanian Homes, the developer, asked Lower Macungie commissioners to change township zoning so development of the "active adult age-restricted community" can proceed.
Commissioners voted to refer the zoning change request to the township planning commission for review.
Outside the meeting, Anthony Maras, area president of Hovnanian's northeast division, stressed the project is only at the conceptual stage.
Maras said his company has not yet submitted sketch plans to the township for review. He estimated it will take at least a year or two until Hovnanian gets all necessary approvals and can begin construction.
The development of single homes would be for people who are 55 and older.
The conceptual plan envisions one entrance into the development off Lower Macungie Road and another off Cedar Crest Boulevard at the north end of the property.
"This is a key property and there are a number of issues we'll have to work out with PennDOT in terms of access," said Sara Pandl, the township's planning director.
She also said the township want to see some open space preserved on the site.
The development would include a community center building and a pool.
The developer is requesting that the township's suburban residential zoning be modified to allow an active adult residential community as a conditional use.
It also wants the township to allow three housing units per acre in that residential community and only a 15-foot separation between buildings rather than the required 20 feet.
Currently, such age-restricted communities only are allowed in areas of the township zoned semi-rural.
Rather than changing the zoning of the Farr tract to semi-rural, Commissioner James Lancsek suggested adding language under the definition of suburban residential in the township's zoning ordinance to allow such communities.
Atty. Erich Schock, who represented the developer, indicated the wording change will simply allow three units per acre to be built in the suburban residential zoning, rather than 2.5.
Hovnanian also did the Four Seasons at Farmington development in the township, according to Pandl. She said that also is a 55-and-older development.
The Farr tract currently is a farm with one vacant home on it, according to the rezoning request filed with the township.
Action on other projects
Also during their meeting, commissioners gave preliminary approval for construction of a new building in a shopping center and final approval for construction of a warehouse.
A free-standing building that will house shops, a bank and a restaurant is planned in n the Trexlertown Shopping Center on the south side of Hamilton Boulevard near the village of Trexlertown.
The developers soon will return to the township to get final approval for that 12,000-square-foot building, which they hope to get erected this year.
The now-vacant 3.25-acre building site is just north of the Giant grocery store in the shopping center and east of Giant's gas station.
An Applebee's restaurant is between the building site and Hamilton Boulevard.
The addition of the new building, with landscaping, will make the shopping center look more finished and more attractive, said Pandl.
A People First Federal Credit Union office, now located in neighboring Trexler Mall, will be at one end of the new building, with drive-up windows so folks can do their banking without leaving their cars.
An unnamed restaurant with outdoor seating probably will be at the other end.
Pandl said the proposed building also includes a couple of retail spaces, "but we aren't sure who the tenants are going to be."
The boundary between Upper and Lower Macungie townships runs across the planned building site, although most of the structure will be in Lower Macungie.
An interior roadway linking the Trexlertown and Trexler Mall shopping centers will be improved, which township engineer William Erdman said should reduce the amount of traffic now using Hamilton Boulevard to go between the two shopping centers.
The project also will include new pedestrian walkways between the two shopping centers, remedying what Pandl said currently is an unsafe situation, and between the new building and the Giant.
The shopping center is owned by Cedar Realty Trust, which strongly objected to the township's approval of a tax increment financing plan for the proposed Hamilton Crossings Shopping center in the township.
Cedar Realty officials felt the TIF, which commissioners approved by a 3-2 vote in early June, would give Hamilton Crossings an unfair competitive advantage.
Alluding to that issue, Commisioner Brian Higgins asked what happened to that "major concern about competition and vacancies" in Trexlertown Shopping Center.
"They can fill these spots?" asked Higgins.
Atty. Kate Durso, who represented the shopping center, said the shopping center's owners still have those concerns, "especially given the vote earlier in the month," but are hopeful they can find tenants for the new building.
"They can't be too concerned or they wouldn't be building more buildings," said Lancsek.
Commissioners also approved construction of a 106,000-square-foot warehouse at 2834 Schoeneck Road, in Lehigh Valley South Industrial Park, just north of Alburtis.
It will be built on a vacant lot next to a larger existing warehouse. That building covers 269,971 square feet on 29 acres that is being subdivided.
The warehouse developer was identified as IIT Valley Crossings D.C., LLC.
Durso, who also represented developers of the warehouse, said it probably won't be built until they have a tenant to occupy it.
Website, street basketball and more
Also during the meeting, the commissioners voted to pay $17,560 to hire Trifecta of Lower Macungie to create a new website for the township.
"Our website is not very good," said Higgins. "It's actually awful. We're going to be getting a completely new website."
The township received three proposals to do the job. Higgins said Trifecta's cost was significantly lower and its timeline for completion significantly shorter than the other two bids.
In response to a concern raised by resident Dennis Seaman about residents setting up portable basketball nets along public streets in front of their homes, Lancsek said they are supposed to be kept 10 feet back from the edge of roads.
"Ten feet off the curb is our property," said Lancsek. "The portable structures should not be within our right-of-way.
"By allowing them to be up on the curb, we the township are encouraging children to literally play in the street." He said the township could be liable if a child would be hurt or killed.
Lancsek said the township should first give property owners one warning if they have basketball nets set up in the right-of-way and then "take them away."
"It only has to happen once or twice," said Lancsek. "The word will get around."
The commissioners' public safety committee will look into the issue.
Commissioners voted to advertise two proposed ordinances for the township to vacate parts of Smith and Ruth lanes.
Atty. Richard Somach, the township's solicitor, said the ordinances will be scheduled for action at the July 17 commissioners meeting, but could be tabled.
The township is giving up sections of those roads as part of its settlement agreement with the Spring Creek Properties subdivision.
Commissioners also learned the township did not win a PennDOT grant to install a paved pathway at Lower Macungie Middle School.
About a one-third-mile-long section macadam path would have started at the end of Fairway Lane in the Shepherd Hills neighborhood, gone down Krocks Road, then west on Lower Macungie Road to connect with an existing path near the school.