Logan approves development ‘concept’ plan

Benjamin wants to create 28-lot residential area

The Logan Township Planning Commission on Tuesday OK’d a preliminary “concept” plan for a 28-lot residential development west of the city’s Garfield and Westfall neighborhoods — near the radio tower that overlooks the foot of Mill Run Road.

Developer Harry Benjamin is proposing to create and sell one-third-acre lots with public water and sewer along a curving quarter-mile road, starting near the edge of the city at 13th Avenue and ending in a cul-de-sac.

The lots would sell for between $25,000 and $35,000, and the houses to be built there would sell for between $125,000 and $145,000, Benjamin estimated.

Four of the lots would be within the city, he said.

Commissioners said they liked the concept, but were uncomfortable with Benjamin’s request for a waiver of the requirement that projects of more than 10 homes or longer than 500 feet have two access points for fire safety.

But a second quarter-mile access road through industrialized tracts to Mill Run Road would need to cross a creek in a ravine and wetlands and would be prohibitively expensive — a “deal-killer,” Benjamin said.

Theoretically, with a single access point, a blockage on the street could keep fire engines from accessing a burning residence beyond, said Planning Director Cassandra Schmick.

One acceptable alternative might be creation of a “boulevard” with a grassy medial for the first 800 feet of the development road, so that the remaining 500 feet would be within the allowable limits for a cul-de-sac, officials indicated.

Creating such a boulevard probably wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, Benjamin conceded after the meeting.

But it would require costly cut-throughs and raise the price of the lots, incentivizing him to reduce lot sizes and increase lot numbers to compensate for the additional cost, Benjamin said.

Reducing the size of lots and increasing their number would diminish the appeal of the project, according to commissioner Ed Zang.

That kind of talk smacks of “bait and switch,” said commissioner Kurt Cover.

Benjamin asked if the commission would consider the proposed project as Phase 1, with a second phase to follow that would involve creation of a second access route.

Such a plan might never be fulfilled, said Planning Director Cassandra Schmick, citing the case of Castle Farms, which never completed a planned Phase 2, resulting in a mile-long single access.

The proposed quarter-mile street ending in a cul-de-sac shouldn’t be a concern, given that there are lots of no-outlet streets in the region longer than that, said Benjamin’s landscape architect Steve Parks.

Reflecting their concerns, the commissioners didn’t promise they would approve when Benjamin comes back with specifically engineered plans.

“It’s kind of like a good-faith thing,” Schmick said. “They’re still taking a little bit of risk.”

Because virtually all the easily buildable land in the township is gone, some waivers are almost a necessity, Zang acknowledged.

Commissioner John Klingeman abstained, the lone dissenter.

“It seems like there are too many ifs,” he said.

Over the years, Benjamin has brought eight different plans for the site to Schmick, including plans for a trailer park, he said.

“She never shook her head yes,” he said.

Benjamin also asked for a waiver that would allow for a sidewalk on only one side of the street — compensating for the waiver with a trail around the property.

That is in keeping with modern healthy habits, Parks said.

The project could open Redevelopment Authority land in the city beyond the cul-de-sac that could be ideal for senior housing, Benjamin said.

Land between the ground proposed for the residential project and an industrialized track along Mill Run could also be ripe for development of senior housing before long, he said.

It overlooks the mainline railroad tracks, providing a view that residents of such housing would find constantly entertaining, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.