Council approves controversial subdivision

By on April 27, 2018

Neighbors argue the South Walnut Street property doesn’t drain well; multiple homes would share a private access drive; and council has already rejected a similar plan

A proposed development at South Walnut Street and West Sixth Street in Lititz will only have six homes, but more than 15 neighbors came together to oppose the plan. (see more detailed map at end of story)

Their objections went unheeded at the April 24 meeting of Lititz Borough Council, when council voted in favor of the development and the preliminary/final subdivision plan for 510 S. Walnut Street was unanimously approved with conditions.

“They weren’t even listening,” said one of the residents, as the group left the meeting, openly expressing their disappointment in the decision.

The proposed development addresses a narrow 6.7-acre property that does not have street access, except at one end at West Sixth Street. A portion of the property is known to flood and does not have suitable drainage. It’s been a challenge for property owners Dale and Cindy Wittenberg to figure out how to use the land.

The solution for the tricky property was to have five houses located on a private access drive, with access to West Sixth Street, and one of the houses will have direct access to West Sixth Street. To solve the issue of flooding, the center portion of the property will be used as a stormwater retention basin to help relieve stormwater runoff and flooding.

Those opposing the plan had a variety of reasons. <iframe src=”https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m14!1m12!1m3!1d4705.332386991744!2d-76.30881420607751!3d40.14590469825677!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!5e1!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1524842629281″ width=”600″ height=”450″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border:0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Bill Rodgers of nearby Spruce Street noted that a similar plan had been proposed 8 to 10 years ago, and had been rejected. Rodgers said that he understood that the borough’s ordinance does not allow for more than three homes on one shared driveway.

Gwen Newell, community planner with the Lancaster County Planning Commission, clarified that the county does not restrict the number of homes located on one driveway. She also pointed out that the county discourages having too many driveways accessing a main roadway.

Jeanette Mastromatteo of Spruce Street was concerned about safety for residents of the development. The driveway will be 20 feet wide, but Mastromatteo was worried that fire trucks and ambulances would not be able to back out of the driveway. She was also concerned about handicapped school buses that might need to get down the driveway.

“You need to take another look at what’s going on here,” she said.

Karen Healy of Spruce Street thought that the development would detract from the character of the neighborhood. She noted that the density was higher than surrounding homes.

Shane Weaver, president of Lititz Borough Council, explained that the density was actually lower than zoning allows for. The developer is not using the center portion of the property and building a stormwater basin to help with existing flooding issues.

“Lititz is in need of affordable housing,” said Weaver. “We have a shortage in Lititz and in Lancaster County.”

A little later, the premise that the six homes would provide affordable housing was disputed when the developer, Sycamore Builders, admitted that the homes would be sold for $350,000 to $500,000.

Steve Lee, of Lititz Borough Council, called on his previous experience with the Lititz Planning Commission, to explain that the development would not be considered high density, and that the plan was the most sensible use for a challenging piece of property.

Parking was another concern that neighbors cited. They thought that the residents of the six homes would not have enough parking and would be likely to park along busy Sixth Street. They wanted to know what would prevent residents from parking along the driveway and blocking other residents from their homes.

Steve Gergly, of Harbor Engineering, who presented the plan, said that residents would be made aware that they could not park on the driveway. Initially, he indicated that there would not be a homeowners association and residents would be asked to be considerate of the shared driveway. One of the conditions is for residents to have a formal agreement regarding the shared driveway and other facilities.

A shared trash pick-up area was an issue for Brenda Mertz of Sixth Street. Mertz’s home is next to the private lane and the trash pick-up area would be next to their property. She thought it would be ugly, even though she was reassured that the area would be enclosed with a wooden fence and tree buffers. The trees and fence, however, might block visibility when backing out of her driveway.

“I think we can do better here,” said Lisa Cameron, who lives on Justin Court, behind the proposed development in Warwick Township. She agreed that the trash site would be unsightly and that no lighting on the driveway would be a safety concern.

Despite the opposition to the shared driveway development, Lititz Borough Council gave the green light to the plan.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She can be reached at lknowles21@gmail.com.

 

Editor’s Note  *From The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal March 4, 1993

In another submission affected by the new land development/ subdivision ordinance, Dale Wittenburg of 510 S. Walnut Street, Lititz, requested that the planning commission consider future approval his sketch plan to build “double tiered flag lots” on his 6.6-acre property located on South Spruce Street between Third and Sixth Streets.

Wittenburg’s plan was originally drawn up in July 1988, but never implemented. Due to the unusual configuration of his property without direct access to borough roads, the only feasible way to develop the land would be to use “flag lots.” These lots utilize an access road that branches off to two or more homes.

Under the new ordinances, only “flag lots” with two homes are accepted.

Wittenburg emphasized that although he had no immediate plans to develop his land, he wanted an assurance by the borough that he would be able to do so when he was ready.

“This sketch plan was drawn up more than four years ago and from my understanding would have been acceptable then,” said Wittenburg. “Now it seems that it may not be allowed and I’m asking that the borough consider making a special exception for flag lots in this particular case, given the circumstances.”

David Bucher of the planning commission suggested that when Wittenburg is ready to proceed with development he submit a new sketch plan for preliminary approval.

“We have been asked if your existing sketch plan meets with the new land development and subdivision ordinance, and our answer is, `No, it doesn’t.’ Double-tiered flag lots are not permitted,” said Bucher.

 

 

 

 

 

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