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Hearing set for Schadt Ave. land proposal

Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners gathered virtually Jan. 4 for its first meeting of 2021.

The workshop agenda prepared the board for an upcoming court case involving property at 1995 Schadt Ave. Developers are seeking to flip the land into a special care community.

Solicitor Jack Gross explained to the commissioners United Liberty LLC filed a claim with the Court of Common Pleas after the board denied its plans in 2019. The plaintiff is seeking to build a 32-unit senior living facility on 6.4 acres at 1995 Schadt Ave.

The board reportedly denied this request with concerns surrounding lack of sufficient parking and poor waste management.

The Court of Common Pleas remanded the case back to Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners “for further hearing on four discrete topics,” Gross said. The discussion will take place at next week’s meeting.

In other business, commissioners continued a discussion on Bill No. 32, which had its first appearance in November 2020. If passed, the bill will rezone a 31.65-acre parcel owned by Whitehall Township from very low density residential to local commercial.

This is a township request, but there will be a hearing for the public to speak during next week’s meeting. Gross said the focus here should answer the following questions: Is the zoning change “in the best interest of the township” and “is it compatible with other townships”?

The second half of the meeting focused on the reappointment of several roles throughout Whitehall Township’s organized boards. Resolution 3143 is requesting Alberta Scarfaro serve on the Whitehall Township Zoning Hearing Board, while Resolutions 3144 and 3145 request John Gulycz and Alan Sandt Jr. serve on the Whitehall Township Building Code Board of Appeals.

A motion was made for Commissioner Jeffrey Warren and Ben Smith to be reappointed to the Whitehall Township Industrial Commercial Development Authority, and a motion was made for Joseph Bonshak to be reappointed to serve with Coplay Whitehall Sewer Authority.

The final two motions were for Barry Keck to serve on the Whitehall Township Police Pension Board and for Antonio Pineda to serve on the Whitehall Township Shade Tree Committee.

After the agenda was covered, Commissioners Michael Dee and Warren brought attention to a Facebook post by reportedly concerned residents. A post on the Whitehall, PA Neighborhood page posed questions for Whitehall Township Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. regarding the installation of a new guardrail on South Lehigh Avenue and Jazz Circle, specifically asking him who paid for it and why there is no stop sign at South Lehigh Avenue.

Frank Clark, board engineer, and Lee Rackus, township planning, zoning and development bureau chief, quickly debunked the situation, stating the guardrail is privately owned. The two then discussed the misconceptions surrounding traffic control and the board’s ability to install stop signs, as it is rather difficult and requires a traffic study.

Rackus acknowledged the concern at that corner and noted several accidents have occurred there. She urged residents to submit a request to the traffic impact advisory committee on the township website, whitehalltownship.org. Comments on the Facebook post suggested submitting a request is a dead-end paper trail, but Clark said that is not the case.

“There is a full board dedicated to these issues for a reason,” Clark said.

Both Clark and Rackus think an increase in speed limit enforcement is the change needed to keep this area safe.

The evening concluded with a request for Fire Chief David Nelson’s administration to continue sending in monthly reports to the board.

Board President Philip Ginder said, “It is important to see how much room they have to cover.”

The board will reorganize 7 p.m. Jan. 11 and will vote on the matters discussed at the Jan. 4 meeting. Instructions on how to attend the virtual meeting can be found on the township’s website.