LOWER MAKEFIELD >> A zoning battle is brewing over the density of a proposed residential housing development at the site of Marrazzo’s Manor Lane Florist at Pine Grove and Yardley-Morrisville Roads in the southern end of the township.

Cedar Crossing Investors is scheduled to go before the Lower Makefield Zoning Hearing Board on August 20 requesting variances to develop the 2.75 acres with 11 single family attached townhomes where three to four single family homes could be built under the R-2 zoning.

Currently the land is zoned for low-density housing, so the proposed development will require a number of zoning variances because the land is not approved for such a large number of units.

Dan and Carmela Marrazzo and DeLuca Homes will be seeking relief to triple the density allowed, mimicking the zoning of the neighboring Sutphin Pines Development.

“It is a much higher density, but it is consistent with what is surrounding it on the Sutphin Pines property,” Jim Majewski, the township’s zoning and planning director told the board of supervisors at its August 7 meeting.

Sutphin Pines, which has about 98 townhouses, is also zoned R-2. But that developer had received a waiver under a court-ordered agreement in the late 1970s to build high-density housing.

The plan for the Marrazzo’s property contemplates the elimination of the garden center and the re-development of the site with 11 market-rate townhomes. The plan also anticipates a dramatically-reduced amount of traffic as opposed to what currently occurs at the site, lawyers told township planners in 2018.

The developer has pointed to the neighboring Sutphin Pines development in support of its density argument noting that there are phases in Sutphin Pines which are much more dense than what is being proposed.

In addition to a land-use waiver, other variances would be needed for buffering, height, impervious surface and front-yard setbacks.

At its August 7 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted to send its solicitor to the meeting to represent the township’s interests and concerns, but stopped short of opposing the requested relief, at least for now.

Supervisor Kristin Tyler motioned to oppose the plan. Her motion received a second by supervisor John Lewis.

“It’s a density issue,” argued Tyler. “If it’s by right, three (homes are allowed) and they want to put in 11 and they are looking at mimicking something that was forced upon us by a court order. I think this is very appropriate to oppose.”

Supervisor Lewis also noted that since the zoning hearing board is quasi-judicial, the board’s opposition does not indicate how they will decide. “We’re just saying the zoning says ‘x’ and we’d like to keep it at that. I would think we would want to continue on preserving the density.”

Supervisor Chairman Dan Grenier said he’d like to hear what the zoning board says first before opposing.

Supervisor Suzanne Blundi agreed with Grenier. “Let’s go there. Let’s listen. Let’s participate. And if it comes out we’d be better armed to address that potential change.”

“That’s okay, but if it goes before zoning and zoning makes a decision, now we are not in a position to oppose,” replied Tyler. “If we don’t oppose at the get-go and it’s decided, miracle of miracles that night, we’re out of luck.”

Solicitor David Truelove, however, said if the board doesn’t like the result, it can still file an appeal.

With supervisor Fred Weiss abstaining because he lives in the neighborhood, and supervisor Grenier and Blundi asking to wait before opposing the request, Tyler withdrew her motion realizing there weren’t enough votes to pass the motion.

Tyler instead made a motion to send the township solicitor to the meeting to represent the township’s interests and concerns. The motion received unanimous approval.

Plans were first proposed for the property in late 2016 calling for 17 single-family townhouses to be built on the long-time site of Marrazzo’s.

“The Marrazzo family has decided they no longer want to operate that facility at that location," attorney Ed Murphy explained in 2016.

“The idea is to consider a redevelopment of the property for what would essentially be an extension of Sutphin Pines," said Murphy.

According to the garden center’s website, Dan Marrazzo began his greenhouse business in 1947 when he was only 15 years old. At his family home on 1 Manor Lane in Morrisville, he started growing vegetable plants and cut flowers for the wholesale trade.

Over the years, Dan and his wife, Carmela, built up the business to include retail and eventually to incorporate a floral department.

The present location, at 1301 Yardley Road, seemed a fitting place to establish their new location in 1984, as the land had been a nursery since 1767.

The company is now in its third generation with Mike and Nancy and their sons, Mike Jr. and Chris. The Marrazzo family has been a fixture for decades in the area and will continue to be a proud members of the community, says the company’s website.

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