John Yerman, a member of the Macungie Planning Commission, presented ideas at Monday's borough council meeting that could further the expansion of the borough's Demolition Ordinance for the purpose of preserving Macungie's historic structures.
Spurred by the razing of the Shelly Lumber Yard, the original home of the Singmaster Lumber Yard, borough planners, zoners and some council members are seeking a way to make sure the historic flavor of the borough remains for generations to come.
"If we don't start thinking ahead, we will lose Macungie as we know it," Yerman said.
The historic appearance of the town is what sets it apart from other places, he said, but without a plan it could slip away.
Under the current demolition ordinance there is a limited somewhat watchful eye on the building in the center of town.
The new ordinance would apply to any building within Macungie's one-square-mile boundaries that was built before 1940. Which is to say that the demolition of any building more than 72 years old would have to be presented to the zoning board for approval.
It does not mean that a structure of that age must remain standing or be denied alteration of any kind.
There are several reasons any such building could be approved for demolition, he said:
- Inability to reuse it
- No historic significance
- Unreasonable economic hardship
- If replacement provides improvement to the streetscape or
- If it presents a hazard.
Indeed, Yerman said, the new legislation would allow for a building to be demolished and an entirely new structure built in its place if the new building would blend into the existing neighborhood.
Still, the concept concerned some -- both on council and among the taxpayers in attendance.
Council members David Boyko, Joseph Sikorski and Greg Hutchison presented several scenarios involving the demolition or replacement of old buildings or parts of old buildings.
In each instance Yerman pointed to reasons that the suggested actions would be approved.
Resident Tim Schantzenbach still was not convinced. He said if his Locust Street home were to be sought by Allen Organ Co. to be used as a parking lot, the value of his home would plummet.
"If they knew they couldn't knock down my house to make their parking lot, my home would become worthless," he said. Furthermore, he just did not like the idea that government could legislate the value -- or ultimate lack therof -- of his property.
But even that example was one that could be approved by the zoning board, Yerman said, if the request to knock down the house said that its denial would cause economic hardship, Yerman said.
Yerman said that preserving the historic homes would make all borough properties more valuable, and that the 1940 time stamp was merely a starting point at to begin assessment.
He also pointed out what expanding the ordinance was not:
- The making of a historic district
- A survey of historic buildings nor
- Rules about how homeowners must maintain properties.
He urged council to push further to protect its structural heritage and historic ambiance.