EMMAUS, Pa. - A proposed 218-home development in southern Lehigh County cleared another hurdle Monday night when Emmaus Borough Council voted to change its zoning map to allow the project to proceed on the 12.5-acre section in Emmaus.
No one from the public had any comments during a public hearing held on the zoning change for Fields at Indian Creek before council voted.
Emmaus already created an "age-qualified community overlay district" in its zoning law last year, at the request of the developer of Fields at Indian Creek, but Monday's vote actually applies that ordinance to the Indian Creek property.
The only person to speak during the hearing was Atty. John Hacker, who represents the developer.
Hacker said Fields at Indian Creek fits right in with the borough's overlay ordinance "and it would be a good project for Emmaus to undertake as the first overlay for 55-and-older."
The development is being proposed for people who are age 55 and older.
It is planned on the former Indian Creek Golf Course, which is north of Chestnut Street, west of Cedar Crest Boulevard, east of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and south of Indian Creek Road.
Most of the homes will be built on the part of the 72-acre property that lies in neighboring Upper Milford Township.
Developer Rick Koze of Kay Builders hopes to start erecting homes by mid-2015. Koze attended the hearing, but did not speak.
No one on council had any questions for the developer and there was no discussion by council members before the vote.
That vote was 5-0, with one abstention by council member Wesley Barrett.
After the meeting, Barrett explained he did not vote because he is a Realtor and wanted to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest.
He is the owner of Wesley Works Real Estate in Emmaus.
Council member Lee Ann Gilbert attended the meeting but did not vote because she was sitting in for Mayor Winfield Iobst, who was absent.
Council's first reading on the ordinance making the zoning change was on April 21.
Atty. Thomas Dinkelacker, the borough solicitor, explained to council that a higher density of development is allowed in an overlay district.
Dinkelacker said in April the Emmaus Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend borough council adopt the ordinance. He indicated the single dissenting vote was by a planning commission member who wanted the site to remain a golf course.
The solicitor reported that in late May the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission recommended traffic impacts from the development should be studied prior to Emmaus granting the zoning relief.
But Dinkelacker explained zoning has to be in place before the developer submits formal plans for Fields at Indian Creek to the borough..
He said so far only a sketch plan has been submitted.
Hacker, who explained how Fields at Indian Creek will comply with the borough's overlay district, said the plan for the development "is pretty much final, even though it's only a sketch plan."
Hacker said the developer has done preliminary traffic studies, adding: "It is well documented and recognized by authorities that 55-and-older produces less traffic than normal residential development-- typically one third less."
He also reminded council that Koze intends to put in traffic signals at Chestnut and Allen streets, "which we feel is a very big deal for the traffic situation," and an emergency access road off Chestnut Street for police, fire and ambulances to reach the development.
Hacker said no development is planned near Leibert Creek on the property, which he said will be surrounded by open space.
He argued the development will be compatible with the character of the neighborhood, saying: "This land is presently zoned residential and this will be a different type of residential development."
The lawyer said the development will include a clubhouse and walking trails.
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