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Residents Rail Against Proposed Upper Mac Care Facility

They fear planned 100-bed assisted living facility will negatively impact their lives.

Residents railed against a proposed 100-bed , telling Upper Macungie Township planners Wednesday night that it will negatively affect their lives.

However, there is little recourse for residents or the township concerning the proposed facility on a 7.3-acre property at 5844 Daniel Street, owned by Nader Hamati.

A Commonwealth Court decision earlier this year overruled conditional use denials from Upper Macungie planners, the township's zoning board and Lehigh County Court.

The Commonwealth Court ruling granted the property's use as residential rather than institutional, even though the proposed facility's property line lies within 15 feet of four residential properties in the Madison Estates subdivision.

"We've lost this battle with the state and it's going to impact our lives," said resident David Rishel. "We're going to have to live with it and we hope that it can be as easy as possible."

Neighbors attending Wednesday night's Planning Commission meeting voiced concerns including lighting, noise, refuse and kitchen odors, employees smoking near their property and assisted living residents wandering onto their property.

Community Development Director Bruce Wlazelek attempted to assuage the fear and concern.

"The township will look at it carefully," Wlazelek said. "There will be reasonable safeguards. If it's not done correctly or if there are violations, the township can take actions. We want to protect our residents. We also want a facility that is of good quality, will endure and be successful."

Planning Commission member and township supervisor Sam Ashmar called the proposed facility challenging for homeowners.

"This is changing their lifestyles and we have to be sensitive to that," Ashmar said.

Exchanges between residents and Hamati were heated at times.

"I have a 150-bed facility on Emmaus Avenue. Why don't you look at that? I drive by it and I don't smell anything, but I live on a two-acre property and can smell my neighbor's barbeque food," Hamati told one resident who was concerned about kitchen odors.

The final court ruling forces township planners and zoners to use residential standards when reviewing the land development plans.

The initial sketch plan, first presented approximately a year ago, seeks to subdivide the 7.3 acres into an area of 6.75 for the nursing facility and 0.6 acres for an existing home on the property. An additional home on the property that faces Cetronia Ave. will be leased and can be sold following the subdivision.

Planning Commission chairmain David Etowski didn't hide his disdain for the sketch plan presented by project coordinator David Bray of Jena Engineering of Allentown.

"I don't like the way you're shoe-horning this facility (into the property)," Etowski told Bray.

Planners grilled Bray on the sketch concerning many issues including auto egress from Cetronia Road, inadequate emergency vehicle access from Daniel Street, PennDOT road requirements, stormwater issues and enough landscaping to buffer the facility from neighboring residents.

Bray and Hamati will appear before planners again in about eight weeks with a revised land development plan.

Bray said final approval for all phases should take about nine months and hopes that construction could begin in the summer of 2012.

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