EMMAUS BOROUGH COUNCIL
Emmaus Borough Council voted to pass a resolution conditionally approving the preliminary/final land development plan for more town houses at the March 2 council meeting.
Wesley Barrett, former Emmaus councilman and owner of Wesley Works, is proposing a new development called Parkside at North Street.
This proposed development will consolidate three lots into one and then re-subdivide the same lot to create 22 town house units in blocks of three or four. The 23rd lot will be a four unit apartment building.
The properties will all be bounded by North Street, North Sixth Street and Long Street. The four unit low rise apartments will be located at 124 N. Sixth Street. The property, which is already a High Density Residential Office District, was once an office building of Rodale Inc.
Barrett says the amount of investment going on in Emmaus over the next two to three years is substantial and arguably the most the borough has seen since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“The growth we are seeing is extremely positive overall. It’s all in an urban core with considerably little to no new infrastructure requirements and many of the projects are bringing new residents which is what Emmaus needs,” Barrett stated. “There are a lot of positives for the town and businesses and the biggest one is for the budget.”
Kevin Fruck was at the meeting to represent the developer’s engineering firm Cornerstone Consulting Engineers. J. Bradley Youst was there to represent the borough’s engineering firm Hanover Engineering.
The current borough engineer, Ott Consultant, has a potential conflict of interest relative to the property which is why Hanover was chosen as the engineer.
Fruck said one of the proposed items for the development would be the widening of Long Street to 20 feet wide, which is currently an alley width of 14 feet. This would accommodate the requirement of being able to accommodate a fire apparatus.
North Sixth and Long streets will receive all new curb, sidewalk and grass strips to have that uniform look.
There are several waivers the Emmaus Planning Commission reviewed extensively, the largest one being the widening of Long Street. In addition, there are a number of conditions that need to be corrected, such as dimensions and drawing consistencies on plans.
They also still need some outside approval for sewage facilities planning, which will involve documentation from the borough and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission before going to the Department of Environmental Protection for approval.
The Lehigh Valley Conservation District will act on behalf of the DEP to review the plan for stormwater management and erosion control.
In regard to making sure every waiver and condition are met, Youst said, “borough staff and our office will use this resolution and underlying review letters from our office and the zoning office essentially as a checklist.”
He said each item identified must be satisfied before the final authorization and signatures.
“Unless one of the outside agencies requests a change that we’re not anticipating, none of the items or conditions in the letter would require making any change to the material layout of the development,” Youst stated.
If all goes according to the correct timeline with approvals, stormwater inlets, pipes, etc., Fruck said he expects demolition to start either in August or September of this year.
This proposed development will also help the borough’s community parks.
According to borough ordinance, “either land is to be dedicated to the borough for public open space and recreation purpose, or cash contribution in lieu of, or, other contributions of similar value,” Youst said.
Borough Manager Shane Pepe said one of the practices the borough used to have with the developers, per the above ordinance, was just taking the cash and throwing it into the general fund, and then never knowing what it was specifically used for down the line.
He said what they are now doing is asking these developers to either contribute the money to the nearest park, or give the borough that equivalent amount by doing work in the parks themselves. Pepe said this “fits right into our comprehensive park and recreation plan, addressing the desperate needs we have in each of our parks.”
Pepe said Barrett was on board with the idea from the beginning.
“If all three of these residential development projects go through and get constructed, you will see improvements at Arch Street Park, Lion’s Playground and Fourth Street,” Pepe said. “Those are checkboxes we need for the community, and by ordinance they have to dedicate $1,000 per unit, so it’s a sizable amount of money they would be putting into those.”
Another question came up regarding responsibility of stormwater issues. It was made very clear by council the property owner is responsible for any stormwater issues which might occur on their property, such as blockages. Each stormwater pipe will very clearly fall on a specific property.
“Our borough staff were very adamant about identifying right on the deeds that the pipes that are behind your property are owned by you,” Pepe said. Pepe said they are having issues in the borough right now in regard to homes sharing a pipe, because once there is an issue, property owners are fighting on who is going to be responsible for the repairs.
Fruck said there will be two essential documents property owners are going to need to sign informing them they are responsible for the pipes.
Council voted 6-0 in favor of approving this resolution. Labenberg abstained because he has previously done work for Barrett.