Catasauqua Press

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Zoning error complicates development

Wednesday, August 7, 2019 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in Local News

Commercial change not made by Hanover; parcel remains limited use

Hanover Township Council’s action at its meeting July 17 further frustrated Good Mac Airport Associates in its attempt to develop a parcel on the corner of American Parkway and Airport Road.

Good Mac, the same group that developed Airport Center, purchased the property years ago with the idea that people shopping at Airport Center would spill over into another area less than a half-mile down the road.

However, complications came to the fore as the developers prepared preliminary plans. The parcel is split down the middle between the city of Allentown and Hanover Township. Both municipalities want the commercial entities in their parcel.

The original plan was to put a “big box” store on the site, but that fell through when there was no interest. That plan followed with a mixed-use strip mall and residential development, which was revised several times.

While municipal officials have an interest in seeing the property developed because it has such high visibility near Coca-Cola Park and St. Luke’s administrative offices, the practicality of developing economic commercial or residential projects remains elusive.

A basic zoning issue arose at council’s meeting July 17. The Hanover portion of the land carried a Limited Use Zone classification. A permitted use was a cemetery, and the land was used for that purpose for a period of time. The property, however, carried more value as a commercial project. Steps were taken to remove the graves and prepare the zoning changes.

Good Mac, according to its attorney, Lisa Pereira, purchased the property with the understanding that the zoning change from limited use to commercial was made. Although the changes were prepared, the ordinance making the change was never approved.

During all the various proposals made by the developer and reviews by the planning commissions, local and county, the assumption was made that zoning changes were complete. During the last proposal, the error was discovered and a recommendation was approved to rezone the parcel to commercial.

Hanover Township Planning Commission approved the measure and recommended it to council.

Councilman Rick Tocci, who lives in the area, was opposed to the change. His neighbors attended the hearing.

Residents voiced their complaints during the public hearing. The general complaint was that the neighborhood is changed significantly with all the commercial development in the area.

Residents had pictures of semi-tractor trailers blocking intersections because they could not make a turn. There were concerns over the potential increase in traffic that would result from the proposed development at the corner of Airport Road and American Parkway.

Tocci said he believes there is too much development in the area now.

Practically, there is no urgency to get the property rezoned now. No formal proposal is approved or before council at present.

In other news, council appointed Christopher Spadaccia as emergency management director.