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Plans for 150 age-restricted apartments under review in southeast Berks

The Douglass Township Zoning Hearing Board postponed a zoning relief request for plans for an age-restricted apartment complex of 150 units at Benjamin Franklin Highway and Broadmoor Boulevard.

The plans call for three five-story buildings near the Montgomery County line on the 10.3-acre plot, along with 150 parking spaces and interconnecting walkways.

Each roughly 12,000-square-foot building would contain 50 rental units split among studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, said John Jones, owner of real estate holding company J Cubed Real Estate LLC, Pottstown.

Jones said he agreed to buy the undeveloped property from owner Ragesh Patel, with the goal of establishing a final plan, then selling the property to a developer who would build and maintain the property.

That final developer has yet to be found, Jones said.

The plans need variances to allow constructing the 60-foot-tall buildings in an area where the maximum building height is set at 35 feet, and to exceed the township’s maximum rental unit density requirement of eight units per acre.

Thomas Flatley, project development partner, said the variances are needed to make the project economically realistic. He said apartment complexes that cost a similar amount to build and maintain would generally need to have 130 to 170 rental units to maintain a profit.

Jeffrey Karver, representing J Cubed Realty, said the apartments would contain fully equipped kitchens and be billed as over-55 independent living facilities.

Karver and Flatley said senior living apartments fit within the zoning category of congregate care facility.

Congregate care facilities are allowed by special exception at the plot’s location in the township’s highway commercial zoning district.

Zoning board members took issue with the classification of the project as a congregate care facility because project representatives could not provide specifics about whether the apartment complex would offer care services to its residents, such as prepared meals or medical assistance.

“You’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole,” said board member Paul Dombrowski. “You’re not caring for people. You just want independent living apartments.”

Karver said the specifics as to whether the complex would provide care services would depend on the intentions of the final buyer, as well as any requirements set by township supervisors prior to plan approval.

Other board members were concerned about the project’s potential impact on stormwater runoff and a lack of information as to whether the building would be constructed with fire-safe materials.

Dombrowski also worried that the 150 parking spots — one per unit — specified in the plans wouldn’t be sufficient because they didn’t account for facility staff or the possibility of multiple drivers per apartment.

In addition, a few residents of Douglass Village — an age-restricted living facility across from the proposed construction — argued the buildings could obstruct the area’s mountain view and remove natural barriers to noise pollution from trains.

Project engineer Brian Seidel of Seidel Planning & Design Ltd. said the impact on noise, stormwater and added light from the apartments would be minimal, and in compliance with township rules and any additional requests made by township supervisors during the plan approval process.

Board members said they could potentially grant a variance to allow independent living facilities with kitchens on the property, but that project plans as they stand don’t contain enough information for relief to be granted.

Karver said developers could provide the board more information, such as detailed layouts of the buildings and parking lots, in a few months.

The board then agreed to postpone granting relief and revisit the issue on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.


Source: Berkshire mont

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