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Council delays decision on "minor" subdivision plan after major discussion

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Aug 22 2013 10:35:58 AM CDT

Sandra Miller questions Lower Saucon Township Council over subdivision plan at the council meeting Wednesday, August 21,2013.

LOWER SAUCON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -

A developer's "minor" plan to split off a piece of land in Northampton County from a larger tract ran into major opposition from residents living nearby.

After a lengthy discussion Wednesday night, Lower Saucon Township Council voted 4-0 to table the plan from township builder John Blair until its next meeting on Sept. 4.

The plan submitted by Blair's Old Saucon Investment company would create a new seven-acre lot near Route 378 and Colesville Road.

The land is now part of a 71-acre tract -- most of it in Upper Saucon Township in Lehigh County -- owned by Blair, who for the last three years has been trying to build a mixed-use development there.

The project was approved by Upper Saucon Township supervisors in December 2011, after Blair was able to get certain zoning changes.

Part of the proposed development -- called Old Saucon -- will be an age-restricted, 55-and-older community with 56 single and 24 twin homes in the $500,000 to $1 million range.

The other part would be a commercial "village center" area that could include a restaurant and a bank, and that's what has some Lower Saucon residents alarmed.

While the new Lower Saucon lot would likely be suitable for only two homes, it is adjacent to a triangular tract in Upper Saucon where the Old Saucon's commercial area would likely be located.

The triangular tract is accessible from Route 378 and Colesville Road, and some people living nearby are worried that if a bank and a restaurant were put there, it would create traffic, safety and water runoff problems for their neighborhood.
Ana Martins, an engineer with Van Cleef Engineering Associates, which was hired by the developer, said creating the new subdivision would "clean up" the entire tract's boundary lines, so that most all the land in Lower Saucon would be in one parcel.

She said such a move would not affect Lower Saucon's right to review and approve the developer's plans for buildings and access routes when they are proposed.

Township planner Judy Stern Goldstein agreed, saying Lower Saucon could still "control improvements" on Colesville Road, even if council approved the subdivision plan.

But Colesville Road resident Bert Daday, wondered, "Why are we so accommodating? ... I don't think we should be taken for a ride on this thing. ... We ought to be concerned with what Upper Saucon is doing."

Sandra Miller, another Colesville Road resident and a long-time critic of the Old Saucon development, posed a question to council: "If we allow this lot change to go down ... does it give Upper Saucon more control over the [Lower Saucon] lot? Does it change our leverage?"

Council vice president Thomas Maxfield said, "This [plan] gives us an advantage in dealing with what is happening in our township."

But council member Dave Willard said he wanted more information about the developer's plan. "I agree with Mr. Daday. We shouldn't vote on anything we don't [fully] understand."