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LMT workshop reviews mixed use ordinances

The Lower Macungie Township Planning Commission held a virtual workshop Feb. 16 to discuss parking and mixed use issues in the zoning ordinances.

Planning Director Nathan Jones talked about zoning language in parking areas. Jones wanted to modify the turnaround area requirements for deliveries and garbage trucks in the commercial zoning district.

Jones talked about requiring a street wall to block glare in street facing parking lots. During the meeting there was a debate over the merits of electrical charging spaces. The planning commission discussed requiring a charging space for every 50 parking spaces on a lot or to the ratio of one for every 100 parking spaces.

Planning Commission Secretary Tim Pickle asked about requiring the running of conduit for additional charging spaces in the future. Jones talked about requiring a street wall rather than a buffer of evergreen trees.

Another topic discussed during the meeting was mixed use developments. The planning commission talked about reducing the minimum lot size of mixed use developments from five acres to two acres in the Class C commercial district. Jones said this would open up more opportunity on Hamilton Boulevard.

The planning commission also took a look at the Wescosville Commercial Zone. Jones said the commercial use must be the majority of the structure as the residential is only an accessory use.

The highway commercial district would be auto oriented. Jones said properties with a side that faces a public road would need a classic storefront. He also said the properties would need to have landscaping, street walls and fences.

When it came to the Class C commercial zone there was a discussion about mixed uses. The planning commission looked at a slideshow of existing mixed uses locally, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Jones talked about how mixed use developments could help deal with a residential housing shortage. He explained mixed use could be useful if it is close to mass transit. Jones also said the architecture should fit the existing village area.

Jones said a mixed use could be a single building rather than a large lot. He felt the township should try for smaller lots that are context sensitive. Jones questioned what level of residential density the planning commission is comfortable with.

The planning commission looked at Maddison Farms, a mixed use development in Bethlehem Township. The development had a mix of different types of residential including town houses, single family homes and high density apartments.

Maddison Farms had a separation of uses with retail across a main street from the residential portion. The retail portion included an anchor store, which was ShopRite and several small stores including a bank, a state liquor store and a pizza shop. Among the several types of residential dwellings in the development, the architecture was complimentary.

Jones said some of the mixed uses shown had a higher density and asked if the planning commission was happy with the density the township currently allows. He said there is an opportunity for smaller mixed use lots on Hamilton Boulevard and in East Texas Village.

Commissioner Robert Rust said the township should be open to allowing higher density residential and commercial adjacent to residential in a mixed use rather than in the same building. It was questioned if higher density residential would stress roads.

“We know the areas in the township where we would like to see mixed uses and have to decide what the standards for mixed uses will be,” Jones said.

Zoning Officer Carl Best said it is important to increase the allowed density of residual housing in order to make it profitable for the developer and for the mixed use to be successful.

Jones said increased residential density could help the housing crunch and help young people who grew up here stay in the township. He also said connectivity is important in a mixed use, arguing the idea is to get cars off the road, not put more cars on the road.

The planning commission decided to separate the mixed use changes from other ordinances discussed and have two separate hearings for approval.

The next Lower Macungie Township Planning Commission meeting will be March 9. Usually the planning commission meets the second Tuesday of every month and occasionally there is a workshop meeting on the third Tuesday of the month.

Workshops begin 6 p.m. while meetings begin 7 p.m. and currently all planning commission meetings will be held over Zoom with a video recording uploaded to the township’s YouTube channel after the fact.