A relatively small project is causing a big stir in a Bensalem neighborhood. The plans have caused a divide among neighbors and partisan split between council members.
Developer Costa Homes will turn one lot into four and build three new houses. The 1.8 acre lot sits on the 4900 block of Neshaminy Boulevard near Belmont Hills Elementary School.
Attorney Michael Meginniss, Esq. with Begley, Carlin, & Mandio, represented Costa at Bensalem’s Council meeting Monday night. Meginniss said the new smaller lots will range in size from 16,000 SF to 21,600 SF. He added the existing house on the property will remain.
But neighbors say too many houses on the 80,000 square foot area will devalue their own home.
A couple living next door to the current lot was not happy with the plans to build more homes. The Wolak family requested Council to reject the proposal and expressed concerns in a submitted public comment.
“The construction of four homes would have a major impact on the use, value, and overall aesthetics of our home and the existing properties around the development.”
Councilman Jesse Sloan agreed with input from the public suggesting three homes instead of four.
Sloan also had a bigger issue, saying the plans did not seem to adhere to certain zoning ordinance. The R-A-1 zoning district, which refers to low density single family housing, is intended to “provide an adequate buffer” between homes, according to Sloan.
“It just becomes a very crowded and dense environment that was not intended,” said Sloan. “It seems completely in contrast with the goals of the R-A-1 community. That’s my biggest concern. It’s just too much being crammed in there.”
But Council Vice President Joseph Knowles disagreed. A licensed real estate broker, Knowles said an alternate plan would just eliminate the furthest lot next to open space. He also said the smallest lot at 16,000 square feet was big enough for the area.
“Across the street there’s much smaller lots than that,” said Knowles. He also pointed to lots down the street at Belmont Ridge which have less space but larger homes. “A 16,000 or 18,000 square foot lot is a pretty big lot.”
Ultimately, the plans passed on a narrow party line vote of three in favor and two opposed. Knowles, Council Secretary Ed Kisselback, and Council President Joseph Pilieri voted in favor. Sloan and Ed Tokmajian voted against.