The Rt. 378 corridor in Lower Saucon Township could grow busier with the addition of 39 garden apartments that are proposed for an approximately 8-acre lot on Old Philadelphia Pike.
The apartments would be located in three buildings containing 13 units each, and the complex would include a total of 78 parking spaces, according to documents submitted to the township.
A statement from an attorney for property owner One More Steel City LLC noted that the property under review is located in the VC (Village Center) zoning district, has access to public water and sewer lines and currently contains a single-family home, a garage and a pool.
Under the township’s zoning ordinance, “garden apartments are permitted by right…as determined by the zoning officer,” the statement by Catherine E.N. Durso of Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba said.
Lower Saucon Township’s zoning ordinance defines a garden apartment as “a multifamily dwelling composed of two or more apartments, located on a common lot, with said dwelling being no more than three stories high and with no more than 1/2 story for habitation underground.” It also specifies that “each individual building shall contain no more than 24 apartments.”
Documents supplied by the applicant detail significant natural features of the property, which is roughly bisected by a stream bordered by wetland buffers and woodlands described on a sketch plan for the proposed apartments as “environmentally sensitive.”
A township ordinance requires that riparian buffers along streams have a protection rate of 85 percent; a requirement for which One More Steel City LLC is seeking a favorable interpretation from zoning officials, who it is asking to determine that the percentage requirement applies only to aboveground improvements.
“The encroachment is directly related to the required improvements that will continue to evolve during the land development process,” Durso’s July 18 statement said. “Having the protection rate apply to underground improvements such as utilites is not practical when developing a site and is not necessary in order to protect the riparian area.”
“The property creates a hardship in that it has a limited area along the front and rear of the tract outside of wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas,” Durso continued.
She further asserted that “granting the requested relief will not substantially impact neighboring property values.”
Another variance One More Steel City LLC is seeking would allow it to put three driveways on Old Philadelphia Pike, for three parking lots that would be located just south of the three buildings.
“The (proposed) access drives are oriented to be directly across from existing access drives where possible and far enough away from existing access drives to provide safe entry and exit into the Property,” Durso wrote.
The letter from Durso requests that the Lower Saucon Township Zoning Hearing Board grant either a variance for or provide a favorable interpretation of township code in a total of five different instances, and that the developer be provided “any other relief as determined necessary by the Zoning Officer” in order for the project to move forward.
The parcel located at 3679 Old Philadelphia Pike–just west of Rt. 378 and directly across the street from the township municipal complex–is owned by One More Steel City LLC, whose application to the township zoning hearing board was scheduled to be discussed at Wednesday’s township council meeting. At the start of the meeting, council president Jason Banonis announced that the application had been taken off the agenda.
“We received a request from counsel this afternoon requesting that the variance request be removed from consideration on tonight’s council agenda, and they have asked that this be placed on the council agenda in September,” Banonis said at the start of the meeting. “So if you’re interested in that item I would suggest that you check the township website and see if that’s on, and you’re welcome to come back in September if they come back in September.”
One More Steel City LLC is located at 4511 Falmer Drive in Bethlehem Township, which according to online records is also the address for Tuskes Homes, a well-known residential developer.
One More Steel City LLC purchased the property at 3679 Old Philadelphia Pike from JAO Saucon LLC for $400,000 on June 8, 2023, according to Northampton County property records.
More information about the project may be found in the supporting materials that were included with township council’s Aug. 16 meeting agenda.