Whitehall-Coplay Press

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Developer proposes cottage community

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

Zoning change sought for MacArthur Road independent living residences

Developer Abraham Atiyeh went before Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners at its workshop meeting Dec. 2 to present a plan for what he says would be the only “stand-alone, independent living cottage community” in the Lehigh Valley.

To build it, Atiyeh is asking for a zoning change from R-4, medium density, to R-3, special care community, for a 14.75-acre property at 3101 MacArthur Road.

He said the proposed Cottages of Whitehall would have 80 independent living cottages ranging in size from 576 square feet to 784 square feet.

Atiyeh said while there are other independent living cottages in the area, they are on the same property as assisted living facilities. This project would be a self-contained community of only independent living cottages.

He said people in the cottages would be able to move to Whitehall Manor, an assisted living facility at 1177 Sixth St., if they need a higher level of care at some point.

Atiyeh reported the community would be gated and would have a club house for meals. All units would be equipped with a medic alert button. The units would be rented, and management would take care of maintenance, such as snow removal, he said.

Atiyeh also proposed making an adjacent 18-acre property into open space.

“It’s a beautiful property near a historical farm,” he said.

He suggested he could trade park lands for recreation fees if the community is built.

The board will vote Dec. 9 on a motion to direct the township planning commission and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to review the zoning change request.

The board also heard a proposal from Vito Gallo and Kent Newhart to form a municipal authority.

Both men are on the Whitehall Township Industrial & Commercial Development Authority, whose purpose is to promote community and economic revitalization. However, WTICDA is limited in its ability to offer financing and low-interest loans and lines of credit for industrial and commercial purposes, Newhart said.

With a municipal authority, Newhart said, they could take on broader types of projects including financing, construction and operation of things, such as water supply and sewer systems, stormwater management, parking garages and parks.

He said a municipal authority also could buffer operations from local and financial decisions facing the local government, such as raising taxes or where the township doesn’t want to own an asset.

The men said WTICDA would continue while the new municipal authority was formed.

Board Vice President Philip Ginder expressed concern about there being enough people to man two authorities.

“It’s getting awfully hard to staff anything right now,” he said.

Newhart said the WTICDA board is very committed and would take care of both authorities. He also said WTICDA will bear all the costs of forming the municipal authority.

“At some time in the future, it will be self-sustaining,” he said.

Gallo noted the township is the third largest community in the Lehigh Valley but can’t take advantage of the opportunities a municipal authority affords.

“This is another tool in the economic development tool box that is glaringly missing in a township of this size,” he said.

Newhart said the goal would be to generate revenues and build a loan pool they could “pour back into Whitehall.” A municipal authority would need to be authorized by the board.

“I think it is worth looking in to,” board President Dennis Hower said.

He noted it will be discussed at the next legal and legislative committee meeting.

The board also discussed the fee schedule for garbage collection in the township.

Deputy Mayor John Meyers said the cost of garbage collection will go up from $300 to $325 for a single container and from $330 to $355 for two containers.

He said the township was looking into offering the option to pay the garbage bill with a credit card, but it wouldn’t be in place for 2020.

He also said the real estate tax for next year will go up 1 mill.

The board next meets 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at the township municipal building, 3219 MacArthur Road.