Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Construction Imminent For 832-Unit Madison "Farms"

KRE Attorney Ed Murphy
Though in the works for the past ten years, the 832-unit Madison Farms development suddenly became a controversial topic in this May's election. Incumbent Commissioner Paul Weiss failed to capture either the Democratic or Republican nomination. But the dust has settled. At Bethlehem Township's June 17 meeting, there was no public hue or outcry when Commissioners considered and unanimously granted both a waiver of traffic impact fees and approved the first phase of this major project, proposed by KRE.

Located along the north side of Freemansburg Avenue, near the Route 33 Interchange, Madison Farms is a sprawling 103.9 acre "green field development of compact, walkable, interconnected neighborhoods." Tree-lined streets with sidewalks will link residents to a 17-acre "retail village, as well as 35 acres of open space, in a "traditional neighborhood design." The residential component will include multi-family flats, townhomes, carriage homes and single family detached dwellings.

The retail village is the first phase of project approved for development. Asked when it will be finished, KRE Attorney Ed Murphy responded he is a bit more worried about getting started. KRE is still waiting for a green light from PennDOT, which must approve improvements on Freemansburg Avenue. That is expected this Summer, after which it will take about twelve months to complete the retail village.

In addition to approving the retail component of Madison Farms, Commissioners waived $729,000 in traffic impact fees because KRE has already agreed to pay about three times that amount.

In other business, Commissioners unanimously adopted a text change to the zoning ordinance, allowing dormitories in institution zoned areas as a conditional use. This will enable Northampton Community College to double student housing to about 600, which was pitched to Commissioners by the college last December.

Resident Barry Roth, a regular at every meeting, questioned whether Northampton Community College would gobble up residential neighborhoods. But that appears unlikely, noted Solicitor Jim Broughal, who pointed out that the 200' setback would alone prevent that from happening.

This dorm proposal had been previously recommended by the Planning Commission.

From the dorms, Commissioners went to the sewers, unanimously endorsing an agreement with the City of Bethlehem over what is called the "annual sewer capital charge." In 2010, Bethlehem Township received a $81,700 bill from the City, which was about four times what it customarily paid. Special Solicitor Stanley Margle credited City and Township officials with establishing a series of protocols that will remove unpleasant surprises.

The City's bill was accurate.

Finally, Attorney Dave Backenstoe asked Commissioners for a "letter of recommendation" to the Zoning Hearing Board for sign variances he is seeking from the Zoning Hearing Board for a new Scheetz gas station on William Penn Highway. "This Board is not known for giving recommendations to the Zoning Hearing Board," noted Commissioner Tom Nolan. Backentstoe was also told he'd have better success with zoners if he asked Commissioners to pan his variance.

Commissioners will next meet on Monday, July 1, 7 PM, at the Municipal Building, located at 4225 Easton Avenue.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem Township wants to build there own future ghetto. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Its about time that this development gets off the ground. It will provide a wide range of housing and shopping opportunities that are needed in that area especially with the St. Luke's hospital and much needed revenue to the School District. @12:14, hardly a ghetto. If anything the ghetto will be the existing housing that surrounds this top shelf development.

Anonymous said...

You've got to have a housing market to sell houses and despite the pleadings of the press, the housing market is not back locally. It's why this development is leading off with the retail component, not the housing. Banks know about the slacking mortgage applications nationally and regionally. Developers aren't getting the credit to build housing unless they've got buyers locked in and those buyers are hard to find.

When you're on the bottom, anything looks "up". Builders are optimistic again from a relative perspective. If you've been barely hanging on and you're seeing work again, you would be optimistic, because the alternative is sheer depression and sitting around waiting for something to happen, day after day.

The Lehigh Valley grew on the largesse of the baby boomer generation. Now as that generation heads to retirement, it not only has to recover loses in the retirement funds but also spend more on healthcare. It's going to be spending less. I think a lot of builders unfortunately have their business plans tied to the old model. The younger generations that want to buy a house are not only smaller in number, but have high unemployment, lots of debt or lousy credit and that will take years to repair.



Anonymous said...

just like the ones off jaindle highway, already in need of some serious maintenence issues from these 75.000.00 dallors in developable blight¿

Anonymous said...

PAVE IT !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Perfect example of what the Brookings Instution report said NOT to do.

Anonymous said...

The LAST thing the area needs is another huge housing development. However, as always, local pols will cave to the big developers promising gold.

The location of this development almost assures that down the road the units will be sublet to poor employees who can easily access 33,78 and 22. They will bring in their relatives and the place will become an overpopulated under maintained blight.

Anonymous said...

4:52
BINGO!

Anonymous said...

@8:56 yeah right. Your comments and thought lack total credibility and a lack of law and planning knowledge. @2:51 this development from what has been conveyed in the media is exactly what Brookings recommends. Take your hate and small town ignorance somewhere else.

zoid said...

well stated 10:09