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Ruling set for July 12 on variances for 70 Middletown townhouses


The Middletown Zoning Hearing Board will announce a decision July 12 on requested variances for a proposed development of 70 townhouses at 1700 Woodbourne Road.

After a June 28 hearing that didn't start until 10:10 p.m. and concluded about 11:40 p.m., the board adjourned into a brief executive session and came out to announce that a decision on four variances for the development would come at the start of the July 12 meeting. All testimony and public comment was concluded on June 28, so the only thing left is announcement of the decision, ZHB Chairman Ernie Peacock said.

He and fellow board members Kevin Strouse, William Cosen, James McCafferty and Michael McGuffin all voted in favor of the motion to "take the matter into consideration" and announce the decision on that date.

If the variances are granted, the project would also have to go through the full land development process and be granted land development approval by the township supervisors in order to proceed.

Fort Washington-based Westrum Development Company is proposing the project for a 13.2-acre property that now houses three institutional uses in a building that was formerly the Neshaminy School District's Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School. If all the approvals for the townhouses are granted, Delta Community Supports, an adult day care and a food pantry would move to more modern space at another location and the school building would be demolished, said Rob Gundlach, the attorney representing Westrum on the project.

The company has requested variances allowing townhouses in the P (Professional) zoning district, building heights greater than 35 feet, a buffer yard less than 75 feet wide and construction in a wetland margin in excess of the permitted disturbance limitation.

Westrum's proposal involves several structures of three or four attached townhouses each. The units would each be two stories, with three bedrooms and two-vehicle garages priced in the $550,000 to $575,000 range, said the company's Vice-President of Development Michael Maier. There would be no pool or clubhouse, Gundlach added.

While single-family detached houses are allowed by right in Middletown's P zoning district, Gundlach said the attached townhouse concept is a better option that will include much more open space than single-family detached dwellings and much better buffering, among other advantages.

In a meeting held between representatives from the developer and neighbors, the consensus among neighbors is they preferred the townhouses, Gundlach said.

A traffic engineer for Westrum testified that the townhouses would generate fewer peak hour trips than the present uses on the property or if commercial uses in the former school building were expanded. The building is "aged, obsolete and has some environmental challenges," Gundlach said.

Only one person spoke during public comment on the matter, a Middletown resident and volunteer at the food pantry who urged the developer to find a way to keep the pantry and Delta Community Supports at the location. That won't be possible if all the approvals are obtained for the townhouses, Westrum representatives indicated.

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