SALISBURY TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION
With one last piece of the puzzle in place, the new Salisbury Township Zoning Ordinance is apparently ready to move through the final stages for possible approval and adoption.
Consensus was achieved concerning the Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest area Health Care Overlay District (HCO) and Transitional Overlay District (TO) during an extensive review during the Aug. 13 Salisbury Township Planning Commission meeting.
The HCO and TO are in the vicinity of the Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest Campus, Cedar Crest Boulevard and Interstate 78, with 104 acres in Salisbury and 20 acres in South Whitehall Township.
The updating of the township zoning ordinance has been underway for about 1 1/2 years.
The zoning ordinance draft will be submitted to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, which may complete its review in time for the next township planner's meeting, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10, in the township Municipal Building, 2900 S. Pike Avenue.
After that, the townhip planning commission will hold a public hearing about the proposed new zoning ordinance.
Then, the planning commission would recommend or not recommend approval of the ordinance to the township board of commissioners.
If approval is recommended, the commissioners would hold a public hearing on the zoning ordinance.
"The residents and the hospital meetings have apparently done the job," said Glenn Miller, Planning Commission member who recommended the hospital-neighborhood liaison and meetings. "I don't hear near the contentiousness."
The overlay district was of considerable concern to residents and township and hospital officials.
Residents who live in the vicinity of the hospital, mostly to the west of the campus, have voiced concerns about blasting and noise during previous construction projects at the hospital.
The guidelines for the district are intended to ensure the hospital can still develop its property with as little impact as possible on nearby residents.
A key element of the district will be the construction of a berm-buffer, that would be topped by evergreen trees to shield the homes from light, sound and buildings.
It was emphasized the berm will only be built if necessitated by new construction.
"These berms won't be installed until we have land development plans," Brian Hardner, vice president, facilities & construction, Lehigh Valley Health Network said.
The berm will mainly shield line of sight of hospital buildings from residents' homes, some of which are located on sites of a slightly higher elevation than the hospital site.
"The berms would be between 7 and 12 feet above the first floors of abutting residences with 25-foot tall trees on the top," explained James A. Rothdeutsch, senior manager, The Pidcock Company, in reviewing large drawings on easels set up in the township Municipal Building meeting room Aug. 13.
"It's a significant berm," Rothdeutsch said in explaining the sight lines on the drawings which included projected views from Pleasant Avenue and Sunset Avenue.
Charlie Schmehl, vice president, Urban Research and Development Corp., township zoning ordinance update consultant, moderated the nearly 1 1/2- hour portion of the Aug. 13 planners' meeting that dealt with the HCO and TO.
About six neighbors attended, including Jeff Reed, Audra Leiderman, Bonnie Lauton and Charles Siuciak, some of whom asked questions about the district.
Schmehl noted seven workshop meetings and two staff meetings were held over 1 1/2 years prior to completion of the latest draft, dated July 24.
"I don't see any other zoning issues, " Schmehl said.
A copy of the HCO and TO draft, which is 18 pages, is available on the township website and was distributed at the meeting.
Concerns addressed include uses and heights of buildings and creation of a transition between health-care uses and residential uses.
The HCO deals with parts of the hospital campus 500 feet or more from the residential area.
"The intent was to give some flexibility," Schmehl explained.
Graduate student housing and housing for guest lecturers could be in the offing, but not undergraduate housing, it was stated.
Also discussed were the need for large-scale inoculations.
"We would like the flexibility to have public inoculations," Susan Hoffman, vice president, marketing & public affairs, Lehigh Valley Health Network said.
Hardner noted temporary tents were set up at the hospital during flu season.
Said Salisbury Township Director of Planning and Zoning Cynthia Sopka, "If you're going to have an emergency response, you have to set up quickly. You can't wait for the township to respond."
The HCO and TO districts are not to include a psychiatric hospital, drug or alcohol treatment center and no heliport.
"We don't envision an inpatient or outpatient treatment center," Hardner said.