EMMAUS, Pa. - A 211-home development planned on a golf course at the southwestern corner of Emmaus moved a step closer to reality Tuesday night, when borough council unanimously approved a zoning amendment establishing an "age-qualified community overlay district."
Fields at Indian Creek, an age 55-and-older community, is planned on Indian Creek Golf Course in Emmaus, as well as in Upper Milford and Lower Macungie townships.
The lengthy zoning amendment in Emmaus was sought by Rick Koze of Kay Builders, who plans to build Fields at Indian Creek.
The zoning amendment was just one step in a long process that will involve all three municipalities giving Koze the go-ahead to begin construction.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission already has expressed concerns about traffic impact, according to Atty. Thomas Dinkelacker, the borough's solicitor.
However, borough council was not voting on any specific development Monday, stressed Dinkelacker.
The age-qualified community ordinance would allow such communities at any suitable location in Emmaus.
The next step for Fields at Indians Creek will be for the developer to request an amendment to modify the borough's zoning map to show an age-qualified overlay district on the property where the homes will be built, explained Dinkelacker.
"That is in the works, but down the road a little bit," the solicitor told council.
After the meeting, Dinkelacker said Koze already has informally provided him with such a map. He expects it will be presented to council for consideration in October and that council will act on it in November or December.
"If council approves it, it will become part of the official zoning map of the borough of Emmaus."
In addition to getting the zoning map change, Dinkelacker noted land development plans for Fields at Indian Creek must be reviewed and approved by all three municipalities.
Council gave the zoning amendment initial approval in May, but had to wait at least 45 days for final adoption.
Just before unanimously adopting the new overlay district Tuesday, council held a required public hearing.
The only person who spoke at that brief hearing was Atty. John Hacker of Bethlehem, lawyer for the Fields at Indian Creek development. Hacker asked for clarification regarding what requirements of the new zoning ordinance will be imposed on portions of the development that are outside Emmaus. "We're trying to figure out what we have to do to design a project in three different municipalities," said the lawyer.
Dinkelacker explained that if sections of the ordinance refer to the "tract," that applies to an entire age-qualified development – not just that part of it in Emmaus – but if sections do not contain that word, Upper Milford or Lower Macungie are free to impose their own standards.
Most of the proposed 72-acre development is in Upper Milford., with just a sliver in Lower Macungie.
The development will be next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, just north of the Chestnut Street entrance to Indian Creek Golf Course and the Farmhouse restaurant in Emmaus, although its residents would come and go via Indian Creek Road on the north side of the development.
Koze, who did not address council Tuesday night, has said he hopes to have all local and state approvals so he can begin the development by the summer of 2014.
Koze has estimated 54 acres of the project will be in Upper Milford, which will have 155 homes; 15 acres in Emmaus, which will have 56 homes, and three acres containing no homes in Lower Macungie.
Although the development will be built on Indian Creek Golf Course, Koze said at least nine holes of that golf course will remain.
Dinkelacker told council the zoning amendment was reviewed by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. He said LVPC said the concept of providing age-qualified housing in the borough does not conflict with the Lehigh County comprehensive plan.
Dinkelacker said LVPC also supports the need for a traffic study for the Indian Creek development and expressed concerns about possible significant traffic impacts in connection with the development of that property, "which is not really what the ordinance is about tonight." He said LVPC said the developer should pay for whatever infrastructure improvements are needed because of his development.
Dinkelacker said the Emmaus Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend council enact the zoning ordinance.
Council member Nathan Brown suggested reducing grass strips between sidewalks and curbs from five to three feet on some streets in an overlay district where trees will be planted between sidewalks and curbs.
But Dinkelacker warned if council made any substantive changes to the proposed ordinance, it would have to go back to the LVPC and borough planning commission for another review and that any changes would have to be re-advertised, delaying any final vote on the overlay district.
Borough engineer Chad Peters explained the five-foot distance between sidewalks and curbs is so trees can be planted with causing curbs to heave and sidewalks to crack. Brown thought three feet was better for senior citizens living there, but added: "It's not a deal breaker."
Also during Monday's meeting:
* Council approved a second annual Bluegrass in the Park festival, which will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 28 in Emmaus Community Park.
Council voted to allow fund-raising sales of beer at the festival to begin at 11 a.m., rather than 10 a.m. as requested by Emmaus Main Street Partners. Said council member Jeffrey Shubzda: "Ten a.m. is pretty early for a beer … and this is coming from me!"
Beer drinking is restricted to pavilions in the park. Main Street Partners is bringing a beer truck to the festival.
Council member Brent Labenberg had no problem with serving beer at 10 a.m. "It's bluegrass, it's not heavy rock and roll, not metal heads," he said. "It's people listening to fiddle music, mandolins and banjoes."
Up to 2,000 people are expected at the festival and five football games also scheduled in the park that day.
"We do not have adequate parking," warned borough manager Shane Pepe. "We've got a concern about how traffic will be directed that day."
Council decided parking in Community Park lots will be "first-come, first-served."
* An electronics recycling dumpster will be in a gated area near the borough recycling center along Klines Lane.
It will be staffed and open 12-6 p.m. the second Monday of every month, except for three months in winter.
While many electronic items can be taken to the dumpster for no charge, fees will be charged for certain items, such as $40 for a large CRT TV, explained Shubzda. A list of fees will be posted and publicized.
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