Council updated on Woodlands and inspections

By on August 28, 2013

By:

GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent

, Staff Writer

Lititz Borough Planning Commission officials are concerned that there may be a blind spot in the inspection process for new development and construction.

According to commission chairman Steven Lee, Lititz isn’t the only municipality facing the same problem.

Lee addressed Lititz Borough Council Tuesday evening with his concerns and to seek their help, support and guidance in closing the loop.

Lee explained that while great detail is considered throughout the levels of planning and approvals necessary for a project from ground breaking to ribbon cutting, some of those details may be missed in the inspection process related to building and occupancy permits.

"We don’t have a process in place to integrate what is on the site plan to the building permit," explained Lee. "That permit is what we hold the contractor accountable to."

In some cases, oversights in what the borough may have anticipated or expected may not be caught for quite some time. In many cases, only when a property owner is requesting a draw-down of the escrow account can oversights be caught, long after those issues could be corrected.

Council agreed that by tightening the inspection process, details of the sight plans can be executed through the building permit and inspection process. That would also give owners and developers a vested interest and assure that plans are followed in order to ease the process of drawing down improvement escrow funds required to be set aside in most large projects.

Borough council president Karen Weibel agreed that a final inspection prior to signing off on the certificate of occupancy might do the trick. She asked that the commission draft a recommendation for specific changes to bring to the September council meeting for approval.

"This is really just a matter of drafting the right language," said Weibel. "There is consensus to move forward on this."

Council also got a detailed look at the proposed Warwick Woodlands project, a Moravian Manor project planned for the Beamesderfer farm adjacent to the Warwick School District Campus.

Last month, Alex Piehl of RGS Associates shared a similar overview to the Lititz Planning Commission. While there has been talk about such a project for over 10 years, this is the closest the project has come to fruition.

At the July meeting, President and CEO of Moravian Manor, David Swartley, stressed that Moravian Manor’s board has yet to give the official green light on the project. Various feasibility studies, from those looking at market conditions to those looking at financial and traffic studies are just a few of the steps which must be concluded before a final decision to move forward on the project.

Engineering work on the project must also progress to gain government approval – from local and county planning commission to those required by borough officials.

Swartely was clear on the current status of the project.

"The board of directors has not yet approved this project at this time," said Swartley, who hoped to have further analysis of the project ready for consideration by September. "In the mean time, we are reviewing the costs and feasibility of the project, trying to align partners and capital investors for the project."

Piehl detailed the broad scope of plans for homes and commercial buildings ideal for offices and small retail shops. He explained that the project would be located on 72 acres entirely within borough limits on what was known as the Beamesderfer tract, but bordering on Warwick Township and on land that is part of the Warwick School District campus. Located at 400 W. Orange St., Piehl also noted that the plot was relatively flat and could present some engineering challenges because a sewage pump system would be required instead of a gravity flow system. However, all the other utility systems including cable, electric and water are already in place adjacent to the site and present no significant challenges.

The project would be a combination of mixed commercial and residential uses. Several larger buildings would utilize the first and second floors for commercial- and community-based amenities such as a wellness center, cafes and recreation areas.

"A total of 226 apartments are planned on the project on the upper floors of the commercial buildings," explained Piehl. He added that the balance of residential opportunities would be a combination of detached single and semi-detached homes. Twenty assisted living beds would also be planned within the complex. Along West Sixth Street, 25 lots would be subdivided and sold fee-simple and not included in the overall project. However, planners urged that those 25 lots be developed concurrently and in a manner in which the look and feel of those homes was consistent with the rest of the project.

Council member Doug Bomberger questioned Piehl on what types of commercial businesses were being considered. Piehl emphasized that no specific businesses were being considered at this point and would not be until much further along in the process. He did note that some of the suites would better fit professional offices while others may be used for retail shops, a fitness center and venues of particular interest to Moravian Manor residents living in the new development.

"Due to the lower level of traffic along 6th street, these businesses would be more of destination uses and not so much what has gone on in other parts of the county," explained Swartley. "There is just not enough traffic for that. And keep in mind, these businesses would be open to the community and not as an enclave just for the Manor residents."

The purpose of Piehl’s presentation on Tuesday night was not for any specific action by borough council but to advise members on the project while also seeking their input and feedback.

Weibel questioned Piehl with regard to the house and barn currently located on the property.

"What do you know about the age of the house?" questioned Weibel, who strongly urged the developer to have both buildings carefully documented and cataloged prior to being demolished. She added that while she was unsure if the buildings had been catalogued by the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, she felt the group may have an interest in taking a look at the buildings before they were gone.

Should the project remain on track toward ground breaking, the path ahead could take up to another two years. Phase one could take up to five years for completion. The entire build out could be expected to take as long as 25 years.

For more information on Lititz Borough, please visit their website at lititzborough.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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