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Forks Township Supervisors give conditional approval to 300-unit retirement community

By Kevin Lechiski, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 21 2012 09:10:07 AM CST
Artist's rendering of proposed retirement community
FORKS TWP. Pa. -

The Forks Township Supervisors on Thursday night gave unanimous conditional-use approval to Country Meadows Retirement Communities to construct a 300-unit continuing care retirement facility at the corner of Newlins Road West and Richmond Road.

But before Country Meadows can move ahead with construction, the supervisors’ conditional-use approval is requiring the developer to address several areas of concern related to traffic.

These issues will be addressed during the land development plan review for the property, which will address everything from building layout and design to traffic and drainage. The land development plan review will be completed by the Planning Commission, who will recommend if the project should move forward. Final approval will rest with the board of supervisors.

The Township Planning Commission recently adopted a resolution unanimously recommending the Supervisors grant the conditional-use approval.

The 300-unit project would be built on a 21-acre property in four phases with a maximum of 414 residents and parking spaces for 335 vehicles, said Country Meadows representatives. About 100 workers would be employed there.

The facility would include two access points from Newlins Road West and is estimated to generate 840 vehicular traffic trips per day, which drew concerns from several neighboring residents in attendance at Thursday night’s hearing.

Several residents who live nearby said they were concerned that the peak hours for employees going to and from the retirement community would be when children are heading to and from nearby bus stops. Residents also called for the creation of a four-way stop or traffic signal at Newlins and Richmond roads.

The conditional-use approval from the Supervisors is requiring the developer to complete a traffic study as recommended by the Planning Commission; analyze the functionality of Newlins Road’s intersections with Richmond Road, Sullivan Trail and Kesslersville Road; and review bus stops surrounding the project area with the school district.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Erik Chuss said he is concerned the large scope of the project will result in significant traffic increases. Chuss said the possibility of creating a four-way stop at Newlins and Richmond roads should be looked into.

Country Meadows representatives said they are open to discussing roles they can play in bringing about traffic improvements. As part of the development, Newlins Road would be widened in an effort to improve traffic flow.

Michael Leader, president and CEO of County Meadow Communities, said the facility’s basic service is to assist residents with regular routines, such as bathing, dressing and grooming, and to provide a daily activities program, fitness services, and spiritual life program.

“The goal is to provide all the things that would keep them active and doing as much as they can with the support of our staff,” Leader said.

The average age of a resident at the community would be around 85, said Leader. While the facility would be able to accommodate a maximum of 414 residents, Leader anticipates there would actually be between 345 and 360 residents living there at any give time, upon final build-out.

Leader said the 300 apartments would be a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Leader said there is typically one resident per unit.

County Meadows operates two other retirement communities in the Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem Township and Upper Macungie Twp..