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Vote paves way for new dorm on NCC campus

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 18 2013 09:57:27 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 19 2013 06:05:57 AM CST
BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. -

The Bethlehem Township commissioners kept their cool during Monday night's ambitious public meeting.

The legislative body handled a number of lengthy and heavy-hitting items, none bigger probably than a resolution granting conditional use and approval to Northampton Community College to build a two-story dormitory on its campus.

By a 5-0 vote commissioners paved the way for the college to construct the 87,400 square foot housing hall on a 36-acre tract located on the northeast corner of the Green Pond and Hecktown intersection. In addition to the building itself, the OK by commissioners also means an additional 175 parking spots, the construciton of two rain garden facilities and the expansion of the existing detention basin along Hecktown Road with an associated storm sewerage system.

The concept of another residence housing facility isn't exactly new. The tract of land to be developed is located in the township's Institutional Overlay Zoning District where dormitories are permitted for conditional use.

Arguing there was a "pent up demand for student housing" at the school, officials took great pains to note a few times that traffic around the region would not be significantly altered due to the fact that many of the students who would be residing in the dorms are actually commuter students now.

Michael Jeitner, an engineer with Bohler Engineer on the project, indicated to commissioners that "no detailed traffic study" had been done, however, one was not required. Instead a trip generation analysis had been performed and the findings indicated a marginal increase in traffic.

Also, about 1.4 percent of the school's undergrads are "international students" who do not have valid driver's licenses.

One township commissioner spoke out in favor of the project. "I think it's an asset and will benefit the township," said Commissioner Thomas Nolan.

In other business Monday night, commissioners waived $475,000 in phase one traffic impact fees for the St. Luke's Hospital Riverside Medical Center project. Commissioners waived the fee because the board agreed with the hospital that the traffic impact fees would "exact undue hardship on the developer in consideration of the amount and cost of the off-site traffic improvements to the Freemansburg Avenue Corridor."

Commissioners also voted 5-0 to approve a motion executing a settlement agreement and release with Federal Express Ground Packaging System Inc. regarding a tax appeal filed by the company against the township. The agreed upon amount is $20,500.

In other news, township residents can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now, because the first reading of the township's proposed 2014 budget contains no tax increase, holding the line at 5.99 million. In addition, sewer rates will also stay the same.