Lower Macungie rejects 44-unit apartment complex near community center

LOWER MACUNGIE TWP. — In a rare rejection, Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners on Thursday denied the final land development plan for the proposed 44-unit Brookside Meadows apartments.

Commissioners cited flooding and traffic concerns at the project’s 3500 Brookside Road site, right across the street from where the meeting took place, in voting 2-1 against it.

Richard Ward and Brian Shoemaker voted to deny, while Maury Robert voted to approve. Commissioners Brian Higgins and Ronald R. Beitler were not present.

The township planning commission recommended the project at its Nov. 14 meeting.

The developer’s attorney, Catherine Durso, said following the rejection that the team would have to file an appeal.

“We are considering all available options to respond to the Board of Commissioners’ decision to act in bad faith at last night’s meeting,”

Catherine Durso, attorney for developer Grist Mill Development Company LLC

“We are considering all available options to respond to the Board of Commissioners’ decision to act in bad faith at last night’s meeting,” Durso said.

The project was set to include 44 apartment units and 110 parking spaces parking spaces for residents and guests.

The development would sit next to the nearby Wehrung’s and across the street from the Lower Macungie community center, pool and library.

The Grist Mill Development Company LLC development would contain a water basin to the west of the site, along with walking trails on a part of the site containing 100- and 500-year floodplains.

“For the life of me I can’t understand why PennDOT is not asking for a traffic light on that corner,” Commissioner Richard Ward said, noting a crash that was seen on that corner recently.

“I do think that it’s a safety issue with residents trying to get to this side of the road. For that reason, I will not be supporting.”

Brookside Meadows Apartments Plan

Public Document

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Lower Macungie Township

The layout plan displayed for the Brookside Meadows Apartments at Thursday’s Lower Macungie Board of Commissioners meeting

Commenting in abstentia

Board President Brian Higgins also contributed comment in absentia, stating that he would have also voted to deny the project due to “the extensive history of flooding on this piece of land.”

Higgins also cited dangers related to the area around the Brookside and Indian Creek roads for pedestrians and further flooding concern.

“I’m not in favor of this development. I’ve never been in favor of it. I can tell you, I won’t vote yes for it.”

Lower Macungie Commissioners President Brian Higgins

“I’m not in favor of this development,” Higgins said at a recent board of commissioners workshop meeting. “I’ve never been in favor of it. I can tell you, I won’t vote yes for it.

“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the community. I have not yet seen a development that says it will take care of all the stormwater problems that actually does take care of all the stormwater problems, regardless of what the what the engineering and technology is.

“I don’t like the fact that PennDOT is going to allow a crossing on Brookside Road at a bend where cars fly and with no safety mechanisms.

“I just don’t think it’s a good project for where it’s located. And that’s a shame. I truly like to be as helpful as I can to our developers in our properties. I just don’t think it’s the right place for this type of building,” he said.

Higgins made a note of the impact Hurricane Isaias had on the site in 2020 as an example of the unsafe flooding that has and can occur there.

The stormwater plan presented involved a bypass pipe that would discharge water into the nearby creek and the removal and replacement of an existing headwall.

‘We’ve gone above and beyond’

Township engineer Bryan McAdam said that the planned system currently had slightly more capacity for the 100-year floodplain expectations, and was comfortable that the calculations met ordinance compliance.

“It’s two buildings in a parking lot, all in all relatively small magnitude in that regard, except for the fact that the site floods all the time,” McAdam said.

Representatives for the development said following analysis, the site did not meet minimum warrants for a traffic signal to be installed, so PennDOT can’t legally request a signal there.

Brookside Meadows

Jay Bradley

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LehighValleyNews.com

The team for the Brookside Meadows apartments development debating with Lower Macungie Township commissioners present on the February 1 meeting

Durso argued that the traffic impact fee made to the township could be used to contribute to a signal, should it be warranted in the future.

“I just think because of how long we’ve been working on this, and that we had the conditional use approval, it’s sort of, I think it’s disappointing that we’re coming so far and now, we’re being told that there’s a concern about the traffic and the access, even though it’s a state road and PennDOT is the one approving it,” Durso said.

“I feel like we’ve gone above and beyond to try to address any concern that has been placed in front of us. And I guess, I’m not hearing anything that’s saying what else can we do to try to address it other than what we’ve already done? Because we can’t dictate signalization, that’s PennDOT.”

Ward responded, “I understand everything you just said I’m not disagreeing with anything you just said.”

“The fact still remains that I ride this road almost every day. I know what this road is like. And I really personally feel that for me, the bigger issue is the traffic and the crossing pattern of the residents that are going to live in this development.

“Because again, we do see accidents happen there without anyone living in that location as of yet.”

“I just don’t understand how PennDOT is not seeing that as an issue, especially knowing that there’s additional development coming very nearby.”

Township officials said they had many discussions with the developers to work to improve pedestrian safety for those accessing the nearby township community center and pool.

Zoning variances for the development were granted in June 2019, according to township documentation.

During the same meeting Thursday, commissioners gave final land development approval to the Topgolf portion of the Lehigh Valley Town Center project.


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