With unanimous support, the Upper Saucon Board of Supervisors voted to allow an age-restricted overlay off Lanark Road, clearing the way for an age-qualified community to move forward.
"Traditions of America is excited for the prospects moving forward and bringing a first-class lifestyle to Southern Lehigh residents," said David Biddison, director of operations for Traditions of America.
While some residents said they support a development for older adults, others expressed concern about potential damage during the construction process and a chipping away of the township's rural heritage.
The will have up to 252 residences, a clubhouse, pool and tennis courts. The project will also include a 24-acre park adjacent to the community near Hopewell Elementary.
Biddison explained to a packed house at the Oct. 1 Upper Saucon Board of Supervisors meeting that the age-restricted overlay is the best option for the township.
The land, which is currently zoned R-2 (Suburban Residential Zone), can be used to develop single-family homes without an overlay. Biddison was quick to point out that option would increase traffic significantly more than an age-qualified community, as well as put an additional burden on the Southern Lehigh School District.
"With a [single-family home development], each home could have several cars, and at least one or two children that will enter the school district. With an age-qualified community, there will be significantly less traffic and no additional children in the school.
Biddison pointed out that the both the district and the township could see as much as almost $2.7 million collected in annual taxes from the new homeowners.
Several residents spoke in favor of the development, citing their desire to stay in Southern Lehigh as they age. "I've lived here for 40 years," said township resident Russ Burock. "My wife and I both love living here.... But we're growing older, and we have to move to a different kind of community. Traditions of America [developments] are well-run, and certainly in my best interest."
"We need a senior complex in the township, we really do," said Audrey Luzenski, who has lived in Upper Saucon since 1964.
Not everyone spoke in favor of the proposed development. "I believe [the motion to approve an age-restricted overlay] moves us away from our rural heritage," said Upper Saucon resident and local farmer Anton Shannon. "I believe what attracts people to this area are the rural roads and open space."
Some residents expressed concerns about the construction process, including dust, noise pollution and potential damage to their homes. Upper Saucon solicitor Jeff Dimmich told residents that there are several protections, including township ordinances for current residents that builders must agree to in order to move forward.
Traditions will now submit a subdivision plan to the planning commission. Biddison estimates that the project would take 18 to 24 months after breaking ground to get to 25 percent occupancy. The company has been taking calls from township residents already, a sentiment confirmed by audience members.
Township manager Tom Beil stressed that the overlay approval is just the beginning, citing the lengthy process of planning hearings and board approval before the developer can break ground.
Present at the meeting were supervisors Dennis Benner, Patrick Leonard, Jack DeMatos and vice-chair John Gilda. Absent was chairman Stephen Wagner.