Lehigh Valley

Developer tweaks design for Allentown townhouse project

Design addresses sidewalk, maintenance concerns

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Confident city planning commissioners will sign off on a townhouse proposal on Allentown’s south side, the developer behind the five-acre project said Tuesday that he plans on moving ahead on land development plans.

New York-based developer Leewood Pennsylvania LLC proposes Southside Living, a 53-townhouse project on roughly 5 acres between Basin Street and the Little Lehigh Creek. The developer proposes consolidating seven separate lots on Market, West Wye and Barber streets for the project.

The Allentown Planning Commission reviewed a sketch plan last month for Southside Living, raising concerns primarily over parking, sidewalks and a question over who would maintain four storm water basins on the property.

Project engineer Joseph Rentko said the biggest change made to the initial sketch plan is the addition of sidewalks along both sides of the streets. Planning commission members were concerned about a relatively compact housing development that provided only some homes with sidewalks.

The homes were moved slightly to accommodate a 50-foot right-of-way, up from 40 feet, to allow sidewalks along both sides of Barber and Jordan streets, while still accommodating a grass buffer down the middle of the street and parallel parking along one side of the street, according to Rentko.

All the homes will front Barber and Jordan streets and parallel parking will be provided along one side of each street.

Adding sidewalks on both sides of the street left the project with streets that are only 10 feet wide, which left planning commissioners and the city’s public works director a bit concerned.

Planning Commissioner Mark Buchvald said on-street parking and 10-foot wide streets would leave some residents with very little room to back out of their driveways. Public Works Director Craig Messinger said he was concerned about plowing snow on such relatively narrow streets, adding that he’d prefer to see streets measuring at least 11 feet wide.

Commissioners questioned whether the developer could again move the townhouses to accommodate at least one extra foot for each lane. But Messinger suggested that the developer simple narrow the parking lane from 10 feet to 8 feet, which would provide plenty of space.

Developer Randy Lee told planners last month that he was hesitant to create a homeowners’ association over concerns it would increase the cost of ownership. But the project now calls for an HOA solely for maintaining the project’s storm water basins.

With plans for a homeowner’s association now in play, Commissioner Damien Brown questioned whether Lee considered making Southside Living a private development, making it largely free from city planning guidelines. Lee said the association would deal only with the storm water basins, again citing the desire to keep home costs as low as possible.

The developer has pitched the project as an affordable housing option for working families. According to a news release issued by Lee following the meeting, the project will target households with a combined annual income of at least $60,000. The developer envisions potential buyers using available down payment and closing cost programs to purchase a home with $2,500 to $3,000 in cash.

Once the developer submits formal land development plans, Lee said he's targeting summer 2018 to begin construction. The planning commission took no action on the sketch plan Tuesday, but commission Chairman Oldrich Foucek said he thinks the project is "moving in right direction."

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