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Hilltown planners recommend zoning change for development

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A Miami, Fla.-headquartered developer’s efforts to build a large age-restricted housing development in Hilltown are picking up steam.

On May 18, Hilltown’s Planning Commission recommended that Lennar Construction be granted a proposed zoning change that would open the door to constructing the development – called the Venue – in the area of Swartley Road and Route 309, according to Hilltown Township Manager Lorraine Leslie.

The commission, which is making the recommendation to Hilltown’s Board of Supervisors, included a caveat in its guidance by saying that there should be a lower number of units allowed than what the developer is seeking to build, Leslie said.

In March, representatives for Lennar Construction indicated that they are interested in building 194 units. The development could, under the developer’s vision, consist of age-restricted townhouses, twins and single-family homes. Local businessman Wally Rosenthal, who owns Route 309 Furniture & Design, owns the land upon which the development would be built, officials said.

In order to build the envisioned development, Lennar will need to receive conditional use zoning approval from the board of supervisors. The supervisors will take the planning commission’s recommendation to grant that approval into account when they hold what will be a public hearing on the conditional use question. It’s unclear when such a hearing might occur.

Still, supervisors are not bound by the commission’s recommendation to approve the zoning relief. The commission’s job is, in part, to assess development applications of this kind and provide helpful recommendations to supervisors, who have the final authoritative say on whether or not a plan can proceed – short of the courts.

The three-person board of supervisors helms the local township government and presides over the administration of the municipality.

Professionals for the Venue have previously pointed out that current zoning would allow the development of more than 30 single-family homes and related commercial development.

Some Hilltown residents are opposed to the development plan. They fear the Venue could lead to road-clogging traffic, excessive stormwater runoff that could cause flooding, environmental hazards, intrusive lighting, the need to hire more police officers, and decreased property values for current residents who live near the development.

The May 18 planning commission meeting occurred at the township building. Only 10 people were permitted in the meeting room at a time. They had to be wearing masks and to remain six feet apart because of social distancing guidelines tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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