FRANCONIA — One proposed development has received preliminary approval and two others will move ahead with requests for zoning changes following Jan. 20 plan presentations to the Franconia Township Board of Supervisors.

Bayard Estates, a 22-home plan by WB Homes for the intersection of Indian Creek and Cowpath roads, is the one that received preliminary approval. Additional approvals from other agencies are needed before final approval, but those are expected within the next few months, WB President Chris Canavan said. 

"Our goal is to start work on this project in July based on the schedule we're on now," he said.

The plan preserves 9.5 acres of open space, including all the land on the creek side of Indian Creek Road, he said. The homes will all be built on the other side of the road. 

The plans also make stormwater run-off improvements along Cowpath Road and re-align the intersection, making it a T-intersection, rather than the current alignment under which drivers are "cutting corners to make lefts or rights coming out," Canavan said. 

Currently existing buildings and equipment on what will be the open space side of the property will be removed, he said. The open space will be donated to the township, he said. 

The 22 single homes are allowed on the property, but would have been required to be spread out over the entire property including the area now going to open space, Canavan said previously. With support from the supervisors, a variance was approved by the Franconia Township Zoning Hearing Board allowing the homes to instead be clustered with no building on the creek side.

"After 20 years, we finally have something on that parcel that works," board Chairman Grey Godshall said at the Jan. 20 meeting.

Plans by Pulte Homes for the Reserve at Franconia at the intersection of Beck and Cowpath roads were also reviewed. The tract covers about 55 acres, Joe Kuhls, the attorney for the plans, said. 

Earlier proposals called for 160 homes in a mix of townhouses and single homes, followed by one for 80 singles, both of which were rejected by the township, Kuhls said. 

Both plans included about $400,000 of road improvements to the intersection, which would be paid for by the developer, he said. 

Under the existing zoning, 35 single homes could be built on the tract, but there would be 13 driveways onto Beck Road, he said. 

"In working with your staff, I think what we began to understand was you were interested in seeing something that resonated with the surrounding community, you weren't necessarily philosophically opposed to town homes, that you wanted to see the preservation of open space," he said. "You wanted to see development that did not ignore the developments around it and didn't exist in a vacuum and so we developed what we'd like to show you tonight." 

That plan calls for 88 homes consisting of 47 townhouses and 41 singles, he said. 

"It does all the things that we think we heard from you were important to you," Kuhls said. 

That includes the road improvements, he said. 

"It maintains significant open space throughout the development. It preserves all the environmentally sensitive areas which you folks have designated as natural conservation areas," he said.

The townhouses would located near townhouses in the neighboring Banbury Crossing development, he said. 

The singles would have 2,900 to 3,400 square feet of living space and be priced at $600,000 to $675,000; the townhouses would be 1,900 to 2,100 square feet and be priced at $375,000 to $425,000, he said. 

The plans will also solve existing stormwater run-off problems, he said. 

Since full engineering has not yet been done for the plans, it's possible the plans could ultimately be for less than 88, he said. 

Land planner John Kennedy said three existing houses will be removed, so the net effect would be 85 additional homes. There would be more than a 150 foot setback from Beck Road to the homes, he said. 

"There's plenty of room for buffering. There's plenty of existing trees," Kennedy said.

The plans would have less density than neighboring developments, preserve wooded area, make improvements to the intersection and stormwater systems, and add trails, Godshall said.

Kuhls said he will work with the township staff to prepare a proposed rezoning for the tract.

In another rezoning request, attorney Carl Weiner said the Souderton Mennonite Homes campus of Living Branches will be applying to have property on the Reliance Road side of the campus that is now zoned for residential use rezoned to institutional, making way for an expansion.

There will also be a request that additional development under the Continuing Care Retirement Community zoning be allowed as a conditional use, which is decided by the supervisors, rather than as a special exception going before the zoning hearing board, Weiner said. The supervisors review and must approve land development plans, so the switch to conditional use would bring both parts to the supervisors for their analysis, Frank Bartle, township solicitor, said. 

"That gives you fuller control of the property, and from our perspective, we're dealing with one body," Weiner said, "in terms of educating you and getting your feedback."

Part of the reason for the planned multi-phase expansion is so all the residents could have private rooms, Living Branches President and CEO Ed Brubaker said. There are now some semi-private rooms with two persons, he said. 

The first phase of the planned additions would be a skilled nursing health care section on the Reliance Road side of the existing building, he said. 

"That would be for persons with dementia. We do not currently have a specialized health care dementia center," he said. "We do on the Dock Woods campus, but not here."

That section is planned to have 18 beds, he said.

Another part of the planned addition would make it possible to turn existing semi-private rooms into private rooms, he said.

The plans also include added space for the existing memory care section, he said.

In answer to a question about the difference between memory care and dementia care, Brubaker said the memory care section is for persons in  earlier stages.

"When they get to the nursing home, they would need much more assistance with their daily living and their care," he said. 

Another part of the expansion plans calls for 12 independent living units made up of six duplex buildings in a pocket neighborhood, he said.

Godshall said he thinks the plans are "a little intense, but maybe doable."

"It's not awful," he said.

"OK, we'll take that for now," Weiner said.

He said he will work with Bartle to prepare a proposed zoning code amendment. 

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