BETHLEHEM — Discussion about the proposed 96-unit apartment complex near the intersection of Wemple Road and Route 9W continued during the Bethlehem Planning Board’s meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
Comprising of nine, four-unit buildings and 10, six-unit buildings in a townhouse style, the site will take up over 28 acres, which is part of a larger piece of land that measures over 37 acres. Around 1.8 acres will be given to the town for highway purposes, whereas the remaining 7.13 acres will be kept by the current landowner, for possible future development. This rural hamlet-zoned area is located on what is now a big farm field.
Originally presented to the Planning Board back on Aug. 16, 2016, the site plan has since gone through several revisions,incorporating comments from both the board’s members and the public.
During the Dec. 4 meeting, two residents of 291 Wemple Road, situated across the street and slightly south of the site, requested additional trees be planted on the apartment complex directly in front of their property so that they do not see it from their windows.
While the proposal already has a number of trees planned to run parallel to Wemple Road, there is a curious open space gap between some trees to the north of that treeline—that gap is roughly where the residents want more trees grown, to decrease visibility of the complex from their property.
Scott Lewendon, one of the town’s Planning Board members, suggested to Peter Yetto of Ingalls Associates, the developers behind the proposal, to move the overall treeline that is along Wemple Road westward so that it can fill the aforementioned gap.
“If you could extend that tree planting a bit to the west, I think that would satisfy [the residents’] concerns and I think we’d all walk away happy,” Lewendon said. “Same number of trees but just move them.”
Yetto agreed that his team would look into it, although he did point out that there already are trees planned for deep within the complex that will block the concerned residents’ view of the complex buildings, based on the angle from their own property.
Fellow Planning Board member Brian Gyory highlighted how there are two six-unit buildings towards the east of the complex that appear to be physically too close to each other, as based on the presented map drawing.
He wondered if something should be located right between those two buildings to help maintain some distance.
When asked what the exact distance is between those two buildings, Yetto replied, “Approximately 20 feet.”
While other Planning Board members realized that it is not even big enough for a tree to possibly be planted there, Gyory asked the developers to look into that and come up with other realistic ways to address the buildings’ close proximity.
“If I’m sitting in my window and you’re sitting in your window, I would think that you would want something in between that distances each of us,” Gyory said, imagining that he is a resident at either of the two buildings.
Planning Board Chairman John Smolinsky also suggested to the developers to do further landscaping, especially along Wemple Road and concerning the aforementioned treeline.
“Wemple Road is important to people who live in the area and it’ll be important to introduce the character of your project there,” he said. “A few more trees, a few more screening near the Wemple Road … is a natural approach.”
After giving their commentary, the Planning Board members said they appreciated that the developers have paid attention to their and the public’s comments so far, as seen by how many updates the proposal has undergone since 2016. They also commended their landscaping plan so far.
Looking ahead, the Planning Board expects to review the site plan further during its next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The Board anticipates granting conditional approval of the project on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
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