A special joint session of the Lehigh Township Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors was held on February 19 to discuss the resort property, Lehigh Valley Resort and Spa, being built by Jaindl Land Co. on the 600-acre grounds of the former Mary Immaculate Seminary at 300 Cherryville Road. The proposed first phase of the development includes a 206-room hotel, an event venue and a “farm-to-table” restaurant. The second phase will include residential development for a 50+ senior community. J. Scott Pidcock, of the Pidcock Company, a Civil Engineering Firm representing the Jaindls, spoke about the project and addressed some concerns. “This is a big project, too big to speculate about,” Pidcock said. “We are post concept and working on the details,” he continued. Pidcock tied the development of the former seminary, a structure built in 1939 to be a Catholic School of theology, to other noted properties in the area. “We read about architecture in the Lehigh Valley being taken down, like Martin Tower. The market doesn’t reward re-purposing old buildings, but what you have in Lehigh Township is worth saving,” he said.
The first issues discussed had to do with rainwater management and retention basins. The Planning Commission and the Supervisors both agreed to waive a requirement for a four-foot high fence around a basin that will continually be full of water and serve as a water feature near an event barn, be bordered by vegetation and have a gentle sloping grade. “This isn’t going to be a water hole, but rather a beautiful feature,” Pidcock said. They also waived gradient requirements for a second basin that is going to hold water for irrigation. A flood-plain study for the creek along Indian Trail Road was deferred until deemed necessary. The sewer plant would also need to be expanded to accommodate the seminary being re-purposed into a hotel, which would require the Township giving up about three quarters of an acre for the expansion. Both boards decided to table further discussion of the sewage treatment plant, which would include a land-swap or cash from the developers.
One of the biggest points of contention was the road improvements slated for Cherryville Road to accommodate the resort. Planning Commission Chairman David Shulman pressed Pidcock on how many people could be at the resort at any one time, to which they conceded that approximately 1,000 guests could be on premises. “1000 people could be isolated at the resort if Cherryville Road is closed,” Shulman said. Pidcock assured the boards that response time for local emergency services would be three to six minutes and that they would have space to land a helicopter for EMS if necessary. He also said that they have non-combustible construction, fire doors, sprinklers and state-of-the-art plans for safe egress of guests in case of emergency. Shulman was still concerned because a proposed connector road isn’t being built until the second phase of construction. “A connector road should be there so people could get out,” he said. Supervisor Cindy Miller said she was concerned about safety and congestion on Cherryville Road and hoped that they wouldn’t have to rely on other township’s emergency services if Lehigh Township’s weren’t able to immediately respond. Ultimately, a left-hand turning lane southbound on Cherryville Road and a right-hand turning lane out will be the only road improvements during the first phase of construction, with the connector road being deferred until the residential phase two. The supervisors also granted a deferral for improvements along Indian Trail Road that will occur at a later phase.
The next Lehigh Township Planning Commission meeting will be on March 11 at 6 p.m. at the municipal building.