EMMAUS BOROUGH COUNCIL
Two future housing developments moved one step closer in their plans at the Emmaus Borough Council meeting held Sept. 3.
The first property discussed was the abandoned lot at 300 Furnace St. The developer, Jeff Trainer, came before council with a proposed zoning change for 6.1 acres of land at 300 Furnace St. and 2.7 acres on 326 S. Second St. The properties are currently zoned as light industrial and conservation residential but would become a high density residential office zoning district if approved by council.
Trainer wants to turn the area into high-end apartments, similar to the recently completed apartment complex in Alburtis.
Borough Solicitor Jeffrey Dimmich said, “This is a requested zoning change for the two tracks and anything you see on a concept plan doesn’t mean that they have to build that. You’re changing the zoning, you’re not approving any plan tonight, just so everyone is clear.”
The current area is an abandoned industrial facility, office and a garage.
“This has been a property that has been a burden for this borough for a long time, many decades,” Council President Brent Labenberg said. “We’ve had issues with vandalism, drug use and other issues at this location.”
Labenberg said there have been developers interested in the area, six times according to Borough Manager Shane Pepe, “but when they found out all that was involved they backed away.”
“These gentlemen are willing to put the money forward for the environmental studies, the environmental cleanup and to move their project forward and I’m thankful for that,” Labenberg said.
Council approved the resolution 6-0. The next step for the developers will be presenting their proposed apartment complex in front of the planning commission. Residents will be able to go to those public meetings to voice their concerns.
In similar business, council unanimously voted 6-0 in favor of conditionally approving the plan for 49 townhouses, proposed by W2B2 LLC, located on the 9.85 acres of land at the intersection of Arch and Tilghman streets.
The townhomes, called The Towns at South Mountain, first came to light back at a 2017 council meeting. At the time of the proposal, residents expressed concerns over stormwater issues and increased traffic.
Attorney Joseph A. Bubba, of Fitzpatrick, Letnz, & Bubba, who represented the developer said he thinks “Mr. Ott [borough engineer] can confirm at this late date, that the stormwater management actually exceeds what we were required to do and actually makes some improvements offsite that really were not our responsibility. But because neighbors did come out, we addressed some of those items.”
In addition, Bubba noted the development will have “very strict limitations” on what the outside of the homes look like as well as what is allowed to be added to properties. This will prevent residents from increasing impervious surfaces that in turn could cause more stormwater issues.
“That dovetailed into our impervious coverage calculations where we’re controlling no pools, no basketball courts, no trampolines,” he said.
The home association will maintain the walking trail, which is open for public use, and the recreation area.
It was noted by Bubba that “through the planning commission process, we’ve increased the parking over what is necessary by over 25 percent to try to get as many cars off the streets as possible.”
“I would much rather see home ownership in the borough of Emmaus than apartments, so once again, I would rather have this than apartments,” Labenberg said. “I know some of the neighbors would rather have woods, but that’s not realistic, that’s why we have zoning. They have the right to build something there and I appreciate they are going to put something nice in there.”
Construction for the high-end townhomes, which will be priced in a range of $240,000 to $260,000, are slated to begin in roughly a year.
The developers also agreed to check out and revamp the Arch Street playground, which has outdated equipment not up to code.
It was also suggested by Councilman Jeff Shubzda the public safety committee look at the surrounding area outside of the development to see if crosswalks will need to be added.
In other business, Mike and Linda Waddell were awarded the 2018 Volunteer of the Year Award for their 15-year leadership roles with the Emmaus Commemorative Gardens Foundation as treasurer and executive director respectively.
The Waddells have lived in Emmaus since 1985 and have been volunteering in the community for over 33 years. Mike Waddell, who is the executive director of the Commemorative Gardens Foundation, has held over a dozen roles in the community including president of the Emmaus parks and recreation commission, member of the zoning hearing board, president of the Emmaus 2009 Anniversary Celebration, Knauss Homestead Preservation Society board member and served as a councilmember from 2006 to 2014.
Linda Waddell, who is the treasurer of the Commemorative Gardens Foundation, has had several roles throughout the borough including working with disadvantaged youth in the community, serving on the Emmaus Arts Commission and currently as the secretary of the Emmaus Historical Society.
“This is truly an honor,” Mike Waddell said. “I thank this community for giving us this opportunity. It’s a wonderful community and I’m glad we’ve been a very positive part of it.”
The Volunteer of the Year Award was started in 2005 and is funded by the Emmaus Commemorative Gardens Foundation. The award was “created to recognize those outstanding community volunteers whose unselfish and dedicated service to an Emmaus organization has made a significant difference in the community.”