Macungie Borough Explores Historic Preservation Ordinance

Singmaster Home, Macungie PA
Now the Liberty Savings Bank, excellent example of rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings

A zoning amendment limiting the demolition of historical buildings built prior to 1940 is being proposed in the borough.

This is policy I believe is necessary to foster a revitalized downtown area. Historical preservation is proven to make boroughs more attractive to local businesses. Preservation should be a focus to enable a community to remain attractive, compact and walkable.

By fostering these characteristics rather then mimicking suburbia, the town’s uniqueness and charm is preserved allowing it to compete with sprawling suburban retail/commercial.

Macungie’s density, character, walkability and charm are assets that differentiate it from the sprawling void of strip malls in the township.

I get nervous when elected officials cite landowner rights as a catch-all in opposition to useful progressive policies as I heard at the Feb. 6 council meeting.

I’m a fairly conservative guy politically, however, I think the benefits of encouraging a revitalized downtown by protecting historical assets is clear.

It’s common practice to use zoning ordinances to regulate development in the best interest of the community. This amendment does not put an uneccesary burden on property owners and does not limit necessary maintenance and repair. The amendment also accounts for the Zoning Hearing Board to grant special exceptions for extenuating circumstances.

This simply prohibits demolition. Furthermore, it’s meant to “encourage continued use, appropriate rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings.”

A perfect example is the Singmaster home now occupied by Liberty Savings Bank. Certainly if someone were to come in and propose demolition of this building, it would be a tragic loss to the community. The plan is to preserve the home while expanding the back of the property to create a full service bank. This is excellent use of an existing property of historic value focusing on maintaining it’s character. It is my understanding that at one time a developer inquired about the land with the intent to demolish the building. This would have been a tragic loss of a valuable asset and landmark.

I am a resident of LMT. I am also a business owner on Main St. in the borough. I believe in regional planning and consider Macungie the Main Street of the broader community including the township. As a business owner looking to find a permanent home for our studio (we currently rent our space on Main) this is exactly the kind of policy I look for when considering locations, and communities to invest in.

If a borough isn’t interested in investing in itself, why would a business owner invest in it?