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Lower Mac Planners Hear Proposal for Allen Organ Property

Construction could include an apartment complex, stores and a restaurant.

Remington Property Corporation of Ambler, Montgomery County, recently presented a proposal to the Lower Macungie Planning Commission involving development of the property that runs along Route 100.

Remington President Jay Beste plans to put a major grocery store, restaurant, bank and a 3- and 4-story apartment complex on 36 acres of property next to and behind Allen Organ between Route 100 and Gehman Road.

An additional nine acres of land on the property is unbuildable, but will be incorporated into recreational use.

The apartment complex, which will be built about 35 feet from Route 100, includes 180 one- and two-bedroom units, a clubhouse, fitness center, swimming pool, and an esplanade down the middle.  Current plans also include 507 parking spaces in the complex.

According to Beste, rental rates for the upscale apartments will be up to $1,200 per month.

“It’s going to be a lovely community,” said Beste.

Planner Maury Robert suggested bike paths be added to the plan, possibly in the recreational area.

Tom Beil, planning commissioner, was not in favor of the project.

“I think your plans lack imagination,” he said, “I’d rather see more single homes and twins.  I think the density is pretty intense.”

Commissioner, Kevin Drake, agreed with Beil and was also concerned that the fitness center and pool may be too small for the population of the apartment complex.

“Often times facilities are too small — it has to be able to handle enough people.  Four treadmills and a couple of weight machines just won’t do. I have seen this many times — people waiting to use equipment,” he said.

Planner Neill Dekker was concerned about the complex’s proximity to the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks.

“Those units are basically next to the tracks. I live about a half mile from the tracks and it gets pretty noisy and loud, especially at 2 a.m.,” he said.  “About 20 trains go through there every day.  People living in those apartments aren’t going to like that.”

Robert's problem with the plan was parking.

“I want to see three parking spaces per unit, not 2.7 spaces per unit.  I do not want to see any variances for parking,” he stated.

Beste said there would be no problem.

“Not everyone needs three spaces,” Beste said, “People in a one-bedroom need less than those in a two-bedroom.”

Several planning commissioners said the number of bedrooms doesn’t matter.  Two people, each with a car, could be in a one-bedroom unit. Each unit needs a visitor space, which is why the ordinance requires three spaces, they said.

Jim Lancsek, Lower Macungie Township zoning officer, told Beste he must also show on his plan that there is enough parking available for each use, including the grocery store and restaurant.

Beste agreed to address the issues and present a revised plan.

Friends for Protection LMT November 12, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Fred you are correct, but you cannot stray from comprehensive planning because of temporary market conditions. I'm sure this developer sees dollar signs in high density apartments rather then commercial. But this land is ZONED COMMERCIAL, this makes sense for that corridor. The township cannot continue to let developers bully them into decisions that do not make sense for the community at large. I'm not sure whats going on here in terms of apt discussions when tihs area is zoned commercial, but I want to find out. This area makes sense for commercial. It's what it is zoned for. It does not make sense to throw a few hundred more cars into this area. This will only make traffic hot spots worse.
Scott Bieber November 12, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Checked with the township yesterday, -- the developer intends to request that the zoning be changed from commercial to mixed-use zoning that would allow homes in combination with commerce. (The Patch reporter missed all this important context). Mixed-use zoning is considered smart growth because it gives people the ability to walk to places of commerce rather than drive and strives to create the old village atmosphere of stores, restaurants and homes together. According to the news article, the planning commission is apparently debating what kind of housing to allow ( apartments, single family, etc.) if this particular tract is changed to a mixed-use zone. Apparently the developer wants apartments but it remains to be seen what the PC recommends, (if any change) to the BOC, which has the only authority to change zoning. Personally, I like mixed-use zoning but it has to be crafted very carefully and I don't like the idea of apartments because they will generate lots more traffic and probably more kids for our overburdened schools. Now is also the time to start pushing the township to institute commercial architectural standards that should also apply to non-owner residences like apartment buildings.
careless fills November 20, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Is funny that the commissioners are worried about the size of the swimming pool or the number of exeecize machines in then gym whilst these are mere amenities for any apartment. Likewise the noise of trains at the apartments. I'd think there are othe much more profound questions about this development!
Scott Alderfer September 20, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Amen Scott! Our Planning Commission and BOC do NOT have to kiss any developer's butt (i.e. make concessions that will continue to erode from the quality of life of residents who already live here) on any proposed development plans. Give us some upscale restaurants and retail in a walkable setting. Fit in some upscale townhouses here and there. This developer cannot seriously think that young professionals are going to want to rent a $1200/month apartment next to a major freight rail line. That is not reality. Just because a bank will lend Remington Properties the money to do this project does not necessarily mean that this project is viable where it is proposed to be built. Hasn't our country seen enough failed real estate investments over the past four years? LMT residents know this area better than an out of town developer and an out of town lender. Our Planning Commission and BOC need to listen to what their residents are saying about the kind of places WE want to go to and spend our money. I do not want a carpetbagger developer speaking for LMT residents about what should be built at this site and expect us to patronize it.
Scott Alderfer September 20, 2012 at 04:03 PM
The Patch reporter also referred to Jim Lancsek as the Lower Macungie Township zoning officer. He is, in fact, the former zoning officer, and is now a current Township Commissioner. And yes, Scott, changing the zoning for this project to mixed use could make it an example for future in-fill projects to be mixed used. But there has to be a concrete cap on residential density to keep mixed use projects from devolving into trash. Limiting residential density on the very first mixed use project in the township (whether it is this one or not) will be crucial to preventing mixed use zoning from becoming a high density joke.

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