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Approval given for new Taco Bell, new housing plans in Whitehall Township

Taco Bell.jpg
Summerwood Corp.
Approval was given for the demolition of the Taco Bell on MacArthur Road in Whitehall and construction of a new, two-lane drive-thru restaurant on the site.

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — The Taco Bell restaurant along MacArthur Road in Whitehall has gotten approval to handle twice the carloads it now does.

The township Zoning Hearing Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to approve a zoning variance request from developer Whitehall Commerce, LLC, of Conshohocken, Montgomery County, to demolish the existing restaurant at 2113 MacArthur Road.

In its place will be a 2,690-square-foot store with two drive-thru lanes. The present store has one that during busy times backs up to Mickley Road.

"This is between a $2-3 million reinvestment to keep a Taco Bell there."
Brian Cleary, project manager, The Pettit Group

The process of demolishing the existing Taco Bell, clearing the site and building a new one typically takes about four months, said Joe DePascale, development manager Summerwood Corp., the operating company of Whitehall Commerce.

The applicant requested a variance to place an accessory trash container enclosure in the front yard of the restaurant, which is currently not permitted, with an 8-foot setback from the Mickley Road right of way and about a 40-foot setback from the MacArthur Road right of way.

Brian Cleary, project manager of The Pettit Group, said the dual drive-thru will be an economic advantage to the community.

“This is between a $2 million-$3 million reinvestment to keep a Taco Bell there,” he said.

Cleary also explained the site plan improvements will provide an entrance and exit on MacArthur Road.

The plan for the proposed 16 parking spaces is compliant with current zoning, Cleary said.

Whitehall Township Planning Commission will further evaluate these plans in a meeting Wednesday night.

Housing development

Zoners on Tuesday also approved a variance request by Tuskes Homes, a Bethlehem homebuilding company, to construct 14 single-family homes at 4181 Bridge St., in Whitehall.

After returning from executive session, the board approved the application by a 4-1 vote.

The zoning variance request was made because the two lots in question will have less than the minimum lot size required — one of them 11,350-square-feet less and the other 28,243-square-feet less.

Also, one of the lots will have only 63 feet of frontage where 81 feet is required because of steep slopes greater than 12%.

Under questioning before the board by Tuskes Homes attorney Catherine E.N. Durso, Tuskes Director of Land Development Phillip Malitsch detailed the project.

It would consist of three different home styles, with each having four bedrooms and 2 ½ baths, Malach said.

Malitsch explained that the slopes on the tract for which Tuskes seeks relief would limit the project proceeding without a variance.

David Wilson, of Colliers Engineering and Design, prepared the lot design for the Tuskes zoning variance application.

The lots would be graded to ensure they would be outside the flood plain in compliance with FEMA, Wilson said.

Several residents addressed the board with opposition to the project. Among the issues they raised was concern over possible blasting of subsurface rock.

Resident Joe Kroboth lives across the street from the proposed project lot.

“There’s stone under that property,” Kroboth told the board. “It’ll require blasting. Do the terms of an agreement assure there won’t be blasting? There are homes right there that are 100 years old, and their foundations are old.”

Another concern raised by residents was the width of Bridge Street not being able to accommodate the heavy equipment being taken to the site.

Wilson said there are no current offset improvements proposed along the street.

“But getting equipment to the site can be done,” he said.

High school LED signs

The board also approved a residential zoning exemption request by the Whitehall-Coplay School District to display two proposed free-standing LED electronic display signs at the high school.

Approval was granted by a 5-0 vote.

One sign would be at Mechanicsville Road and the other at MacArthur Road and Zephyr Boulevard.

Current zoning allows for only one such sign in the Low/Medium Density Residential Zoning District.

The nearest any sign would be to a residence is 130 feet.

The signs will measure 6 feet high and 9 feet wide.

“The signage we have now is outdated.”
Whitehall-Coplay Schools Superintendent Robert Steckel

The signs will replace two existing signs at the school. The new signs only will display public service information, such as board meeting dates and school district news, according to the applicant.

The school district also said one of the signs would be less than 30 feet from the MacArthur Road right of way. Both signs would be less than 250 feet from a residence and less than 400 feet from a residential zoning district.

The LED signs will be bought from Digital Scoreboards, of Venice, Florida.

The cost of each sign was not available at the hearing.

Whitehall-Coplay Schools Superintendent Robert Steckel testified the LED signs would operate remotely and be more efficient than the current signs, which are changed manually.

Steckel said the signs also would be visible from both sides.

“There would be greater access for the public to see information in real time, especially in the event of an emergency,” Steckel said.

“The signage we have now is outdated.”

Under questioning by board Chairman Stephen M. Burda, Steckel said he does not believe the sign at MacArthur Road would be a distraction to drivers.

Paxos condos

Issues surrounding the Paxos Group Builders and Developers and Paxos Group, of Center Valley, were listed on the agenda. However, the discussion was postponed until the next zoning hearing board meeting in May.

Paxos Group Builders and Developers, of Center Valley, were charged with renting apartments in Phase 3 of the Haven Ridge Condominiums subdivision at 2033 Arey Lane in Whitehall.

Renting apartments is not permitted in the High-Density Residential Without Apartments Zoning District without first establishing those units as condominiums as approved by the board of commissioners.

Paxos Group denies ownership of and renting those units as apartments.

Paxos Realty LLC, of Center Valley, also was said to have been in similar violation in Lots 2011-2089 of the subdivision.

The realty company refutes claims it rented or leased the units as apartments, and claims the units meet the definition of condominiums.

The difference is that apartments are rented while condominiums are single owned units.