The South Whitehall Commissioners heard a proposal for the first major update to their zoning ordinance in nearly twenty years at Wednesday’s board meeting.
Presented by Thomas Comitta Associates, the plan outlines a path for feasible growth in the township that emphasizes doubling down on existing development areas, assessing areas of potential growth and evaluating the feasibility of introducing new industries.
Jennifer Reitz, member of the TCA and presenter of the “comprehensive plan,” stressed the importance of growing within the character of individual communities.
“Right now you would build something that would be completely out of context,” she said. “That doesn’t complement the character of what is there.”
The current overhaul of zoning ordinances that date back to 1991, she says, will address this.
“It allows new development coming in to those areas to match what’s there,” said Reitz.
This will be largely implemented through Innovation Overlay Districts (IODs), which will integrate traditional neighborhood plans with mixed used forms, according to the proposal.
“Thank you for all the hard work that has been put into this,” said board president Christina Tori Morgan. “It’s been quite a long process.”
Even so, some community members expressed concerns over specific commercial designations, and so the board opted to continue the reviewing process by passing the proposal along to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
“We’ll be looking at [the LVPC’s] comments [and] any other comments we get and we’ll be looking at those too,” said Director of Administration Howard Kutzler.
"I think the best way to handle this is to take another look at it,” said Morgan.
The board president went on to stress the need for a unified vision of growth in the township.
“As we start to go through some of these major changes, I think it might make sense to make sure everyone is on the same page,” she said.
The comprehensive plan was initially adopted in 2009, but only in June of 2012 did the South Whitehall Commissioners set out to update the two-decades old regulations.