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Wemple Corners draws interest of neighbors

Huge Glenmont hamlet project starting review process

A developer seeking to build a large hamlet-style development in Glenmont is just launching into a rezoning review, but neighbors are already raising some concerns.

Milltowne Plaza Inc. made its first appearance before the Bethlehem Planning Board on Tuesday, May 17, to make the argument for rezoning 95 acres near the intersection of Wemple Road and Route 9W from mixed economic development to "commercial hamlet."

The Wemple Corners development would need the new designation primarily to allow senior housing, said Donald Zee, local attorney for Milltowne Plaza.

"Senior housing is not permitted. One of the key elements of what we are proposing the rezone for is senior housing, senior apartments," he said.

In addition to 150 senior apartments, the plans call for 240 conventional apartments in 16-unit buildings, 80 mixed use apartments above businesses, 56 townhomes and over 140,000 square feet of commercial and office space.

The scope of the project has caused some concern amongst neighbors, who the developer recently alerted by mailing at the request of the Town Board.

"I think our main concern is just how much of it is apartments," said Marcus Mastracco, a resident of Milltowne Plaza development off of Wemple Road and one of about ten people who came to the Planning Board meeting. (Milltowne Plaza was built by the same company proposing Wemple Corners).

Mastracco pointed out that another hamlet development, Kendall Square, is already under construction at the corner of Feura Bush Road and Elsmere Avenue. It's to be a smaller hamlet project of 110 housing units, mostly apartments.

"It seems like an awful lot of additional apartment space," Mastracco said of Wemple Corners.

Zee, however, said Bethlehem's low vacancy rate when it comes to multifamily housing and especially senior housing means the market is ripe for this big hamlet.

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