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Public weighs in on Macungie Manor

The Nov. 10 meeting of the Lower Macungie Township Planning Commission included a conditional use request and a zoning amendment request from Pennsylvania Venture Capital’s Macungie Manor project. The meeting was held in the community center gymnasium.

Township Solicitor David Brooman began the meeting by clarifying the planning commission is a recommending body and will not make the final decision on the Macungie Manor application. If the planning commission recommends approval of the application, Macungie Manor will appear before the board of commissioners.

A third of the Macungie Manor property would be in South Whitehall Township. The proposed property would be a senior living facility including a clubhouse, walking trails and parking.

Planning Director Nathan Jones asked about the type of buffers on the property and the issues of emergency access and stormwater were discussed. There was a question about how accessible the property was for ambulances and other rescue vehicles.

The planning commission discussed concerns about stormwater drainage on the property. The stormwater would flow into a basin along Interstate 78 which borders the property.

The engineer for Macungie Manor was William Erdman of Keystone Consulting Engineers. Erdman said he had a meeting with some of the neighboring residents. He also said Pennsylvania Venture Capital wanted an area where seniors would be integrated into the neighborhood. Erdman said by the time the land development process is completed Macungie Manor would not cause flooding issues for the neighboring properties.

Peter Terry was the traffic consultant for the Macungie Manor project. Terry said the current traffic count is less than accurate due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he was able to use a township study of the same road from a year ago to get a better understanding of what the typical traffic count would be.

As part of the traffic study, Terry looked at three peak travel times; morning, a midday shift change and evening. He talked about the average wait time at the intersection being 10 to 15 seconds during peak travel hours.

Gene Byrd was the architect for Macungie Manor. He explained the memory care building would be one story and have 100 beds. Byrd said there would also be two three- story buildings on the portion of the property in Lower Macungie Township. He explained the three-story buildings will be cut into the land so they would look like two-story buildings to the neighbors.

Byrd said the property will include the required buffering and the closest building will be more than 80-feet from the rear property lines of the neighbors. Byrd showed computer models of where the shadows of the buildings will fall at different times of day and during different times of year.

The planning commission asked about foot traffic on Hillview and Kressler roads.

There was a discussion about the impervious coverage. Byrd was considering two options on the property, one that had 30 percent impervious coverage and a second which included more amenities but had 40 percent impervious coverage.

The township impervious coverage standard for the suburban residential district is 30 percent or less, so Pennsylvania Venture Capital would have to get a zoning amendment in order to have the additional 10 percent of impervious coverage.

At the end of the meeting, the planning commission allowed residents in attendance to ask questions or make public statements. Mike Segal was the first resident to speak. Segal asked about the issue of people using Hillview and Kressler roads as a shortcut to get to Lehigh Valley Hospital and the apartments put in near there in recent years.

He suggested the developer put in a stop light at the intersection of Kressler Road. Segal talked about having a retention pond which could provide recreation for the residents. He questioned if ambulances would have the needed mobility on the property and if the property had the necessary parking for this use.

Another resident who had comments during the meeting was Joanne Marcawitz who lives on South Hill View Road and represented Nonnemacher Farms. Marcawitz said she felt the township was not very transparent on this project and hundreds of residents did not know the project would be before the planning commission before concerned residents began a door-to-door campaign.

She also said the land was approved in 2019 for single family homes that were never built and single family homes are something she would welcome.

Richard Shaler was another resident who had comments during the meeting. Shaler said there are still a lot of people who walk along Hillview Road.

He also said some of the residents bordering the property already complain of flooding. He asked if some of the water runoff might head in the opposite direction and end up in neighbor’s properties rather than the stormwater basin.

Planning Commissioner Tim Pickle said he visited the property and looked at the slope of the land. He also said he witnessed multiple people walking on Hillview Road.

The planning commission proposed to recommend approval of the Macungie Manor conditional use to the board of commissioners with a list of 21 conditions. Among these include limiting the two buildings in the township to two stories rather than three and having the entrance and exit of the facility form a four-way intersection with Nonnemacher Lane.

The conditions also cover topics such as signage and landscaping on the property, buffering, trails and walkways on the property and lighting. A full list of the conditions can be found on the Lower Macungie Township webpage.

The recommendation was approved by a margin of 5-2 with the dissenting votes being Commissioners Tim Pickle and Al Perez. Due to the length of the meeting, the zoning amendment request was tabled until the next month’s meeting.

The next Lower Macungie Township Planning Commission meeting will be 7 p.m. Dec. 8 in the township municipal building, 3400 Brookside Road.