SANATOGA PA – Plans to build a multi-million-dollar combined assisted and independent living facility on property between Porter Road and Medical Drive in Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township, slightly southeast of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, received preliminary approval Monday (April 20, 2009) from the township Planning Commission.
For the developer, LPAL Limited Partnership, that may have been an easy task compared to what could lie ahead.
Two members of the township Board of Commissioners – which has final say over whether the project can be built – were in the audience for the planners’ review and said they would demand more detail about the facility before considering if construction can proceed.
The planning board held its monthly meeting in the township municipal building, 2199 Buchert Rd.
Plans presented by LPAL President Robert Basile of Douglassville PA are almost 10 years old, but little changed from when they were first delivered to township planners during November 2000. They call for a 52,000-square-foot building on about 8 acres at 125 Porter Rd., currently occupied by a fortress-like equipment bunker originally built for AT&T.
The building would contain a three-story section of 76 assisted living beds, intended to house primarily elderly patients who need regular help with daily activities; as well as a five-story section of 92 apartment units for people who could care for themselves independently. The somewhat J-shaped structure would be built in part atop the bunker’s foundation, which was once said to have been created to withstand a direct hit by a bomb.
Its main entrance would be from the cul-de-sac at the end of Medical Drive, sandwiched between other entrances for the Pottstown Scanning Center, Diamond Credit Union, and an office building.
Planners, relying in part on recommendations from township engineers Bursich Associates, expressed concerns Monday about:
- Traffic congestion on Medical Drive and, specifically, at the proposed facility’s entrance. Bursich President Scott Exley described the accident potential there as “a free-for-all.” Board members said they hoped Basile would work with the township and neighboring owners to create a unified entrance to his and adjacent properties.
- Milling and re-paving of a 200-foot section of Porter Road, a portion of which would be disturbed during construction. A Basile engineer said he considered the roadwork “unnecessary.” Planners disagreed, saying they preferred milling because road damage seemed likely; and
- The quality and appearance of exterior building materials to be used in the project. Planners requested a more detailed architectural rendering of the proposal than the decade-old black-and-white drawings Basile supplied. His attorney, Stephen Kalis, said his client thought it premature to spend money on elevation details, and suggested instead that Basile provide photos and renderings of similar projects his firm had already built. Planners acknowledged they wanted to see those items.
Whether those substitutes placate township commissioners, however, is another question.
Commissioners’ President Bruce Foltz and Commissioner Anthony Doyle attended the meeting, and after Basile left both said the lack of an architectural rendering was unacceptable. “I want some assurance, to nail them down, on what the building’s going to look like and that we’ll be happy with it,” Doyle said. “I have a hard time understanding why they can’t come up with something for us to see,” Foltz agreed.