Several Waldheim Park residents told the Salisbury Township Planning Commission they opposed proposed changes to the zoning amendements that would allow mobile homes to be built on their private wooded enclave off W. Emmaus Avenue.
"Our concern is not only is this zoning giving permission to outside property owners to build manufactured housing, it gives them the [legal] standing to sue," Pamela Varkony told the commissioners at their Tuesday meeting. Varkony and her husband, Zolt, own a summer cottage at Waldheim Park.
State law requires townships to provide for a variety of land use and housing types, including manufactured home parks, or mobile homes, in areas designated medium-high residential.
Charlie Schmehl, vice president of Urban Research & Development Corp., the consulting firm hired by the township to revise Salisbury's zoning amendments, said there were not many other parcels of open flat land available in the township to designate for manufactured housing.
"Just because we have to make allowances [for manufactured housing] doesn't mean it has to go there," Township Solicitor John Ashley said.
"You're either deceiving the state or you're deceiving us," said Varkony, a former member of Allentown's and the Lehigh Valley's planning commissions. "You're telling us not to worry about it. Those two things don't gel."
Commissioner Richard Schreiter said as long as the Waldheim Park Association owns the property, "no one can tell you what to build there."
Schreiter said the rezoning might not go into effect for 100 years or when the association dissolves. But, he added, "nothing's forever."
Commissioner Stephen McKitish said while the rezoning "opens options" the homeowners association protects the land. "Your legal entity protects you," he said.
Varkony said that in her experience on planning commissions, once a zoning change is made, developers show up with a "phalanx of attorneys."
Waldheim Park residents said the change would destroy the community's unique character.
"That is a very valuable piece of land on South Mountain," Varkony said. "All of us live there because of the peace and tranquility and the ability to practice our faith there. We consider this a threat to that."
Waldheim Park sits on a large plot of land on South Mountain. It was founded in 1904 as a religious summer retreat by the Evangelical Congregational Church and its quaint Victorian cottages have been visited by many of the same families for decades. About nine residents live there all year. There are about 80 cottages, a large, open-air tabernacle, an outdoor pool, walkways, woods and open space.
The Waldheim Park Association owns the land and residents own their homes.
Salisbury Township has been revising its comprehensive plan, zoning amendments and subdivision and land development ordinances (SALDO), which haven't been changed since the early 1990s. In September, the Board of Commissioners passed the township's revised comprehensive plan, which serves as a blueprint for Salisbury's growth and land use over the next 10 to 15 years.