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New to the neighborhood: Residents move in to huge development of Woodland Hills off North Union

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/1/19

The world is catching up to Ken and Beth Mellinger at their new home in Woodland Hills.

Punch in their Sage Boulevard address on GPS and nothing comes up because, as far as GPS knows, their …

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New to the neighborhood: Residents move in to huge development of Woodland Hills off North Union

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The world is catching up to Ken and Beth Mellinger at their new home in Woodland Hills.

Punch in their Sage Boulevard address on GPS and nothing comes up because, as far as GPS knows, their address doesn’t exist yet.

Fortunately, they are close to such landmarks of civilization as Middletown Area High School and Middletown Swim Club, both of which do come up on GPS.

So if you are planning to visit the Mellingers, just punch in the high school or the swim club on the GPS, and the Mellingers will get you the rest of the way to their house. No problem.

That’s one of the fun little quirks about being one of the first people to move into a brand new housing development.

Woodland Hills by day is a beehive of construction activity. Beth can look out her front window and watch the start of a new home being built.

By 3:30 or so, the construction crews are gone. The only traffic is the folks driving around for a look, so the Mellingers can go for walks right down the middle of their street. It’s quiet enough to easily hear the locusts and crickets.

The Mellingers moved into the left side of their new duplex on Dec. 15. They were the third buyers to move into Woodland Hills, the brand new housing development in Middletown unfolding east of North Union Street just south of Lower Swatara Township.

At 168 acres, Woodland Hills by far is the largest undeveloped tract of land in Middletown.

Woodland Hills is to be developed over 10 phases and  eventually include 440 housing units — 150 apartments, 125 townhouses, 119 single-family detached homes, and 46 duplexes, according to plans submitted to Middletown borough.

Borough council is considering each phase for final approval one at a time. Council so far has given final approval to the first three phases.

Phase 1 has the first four duplexes, including the one the Mellingers are living in; and all 150 apartments.

Phase 2 covers 29 units, including another 20 duplexes and nine townhouses. Phase 3 includes another 29 units of single-family homes and townhouses.

The home the Mellingers bought is one of seven homes sold in Woodland Hills so far, said Don Beachy, sales representative for CB Burkholder of Ephrata, the homebuilder of the development.

Another three homes are under contract to buyers as of April 30, Beachy said.

The new homes have sold for prices ranging from $235,434 to $270,238, according to deeds posted on the Dauphin County website.

Things were a bit slow over winter but interest is picking up with spring arriving, Beachy said.

Range of buyers

The first units available, the duplexes, have attracted older couples like the Mellingers, some of whom are downsizing.

Now, Beachy can begin offering single-family homes and townhomes, which he expects to attract a broader range of prospective buyers.

“We’ll be starting to see some younger families who are wanting to grow into a home,” he said. “With the townhomes, we are hoping to attract first-time homebuyers into a little smaller home, but one that is more affordable.”

The townhomes are priced in the $210,000 range, Beachy said, compared to the duplexes running from $220,000 to $250,000, and the single-family homes from $255,000 to the $310,000 range.

Another marketing plus are the new upscale apartments becoming available at the same time in Woodland Hills. The apartments are a potential source of future buyers for new homes in the development.

“That was our experience in the Mount Joy area,” where CB Burkholder was building a housing development next to a high-end rental community, Beachy said.

The 150 apartment units in Woodland Hills will be clustered in five buildings.

The first apartment building was finished in January. A “significant percentage” of units in the first building are leased, according to an email to the Press & Journal from Lisa Forino Hermanovich, director of sales for Forino, the builder from Sinking Spring that is constructing the apartments in Woodland Hills.

More information about leasing of the apartments could not be obtained from Berger Rental Communities, the company managing the apartments.

According to Hermanovich, the second apartment building is to be ready for occupancy in early May; the third by mid-June, the fourth in early August and the last by mid-September.

“A good number” of units to be available in these other buildings have been pre-leased, Hermanovich said.

In May 2018, Forino said that the apartments would rent for $1,195 per month for a one-bedroom/one-bathroom, and $1,350 for a two-bedroom/two-bathroom.

New residents

The apartment buildings have their own separate entrance, so that traffic doesn’t go past the Mellingers’ house.

But the Mellingers can see a lot more lights on at night in the first apartment building these days.

All the homebuyers in Woodland Hills, including the Mellingers, are also new to Middletown.

The Mellingers lived in their first home off Union Deposit Road for 31 years until 2016, when Ken and Beth moved into Londonderry Village in Palmyra to care for Beth’s parents.

Beth’s mother had Alzheimer’s Disease, and her father couldn’t care for her on his own anymore.

Beth’s mother died in 2017 and her father in June 2018. Ken and Beth needed another place to live, but didn’t want to go back to their home in Union Deposit because they were renting it out to someone who wanted to buy it.

They needed to stay in the area. Ken is a part-time pastor at the new Living Hope Church on Schoolhouse Road in Londonderry Township, and also works part-time for his son doing real estate closings.

They wanted to be close to Route 283, as Ken’s job for his son frequently sends him up the highway in both directions.

They also needed a place with the laundry, bedroom and garage all on the main floor so Beth, who has bad knees, wouldn’t have to go up and down.

They looked in Hummelstown, Mount Joy and Elizabethtown, but couldn’t find anything that worked.

One day at a family event they ran into Tom Kile of H-T Partners, who had owned the Woodland Hills property for years. Tom is married to Beth’s cousin.

Homes are finally going up in Woodland Hills, Kile told the Mellingers.

Ken said they had considered Middletown “an afterthought” for a home because the borough had a reputation for high taxes.

But in every other respect Woodland Hills was shaping up as the place to be. The first floor layout was ideal.

The house also had the exposed basement with windows and a separate entrance that the Mellingers wanted, big enough for family get-togethers with all 16 grandchildren.

Ken at first had concerns about Middletown Area High School, but after doing some research learned it was one of the higher-rated schools in Dauphin County.

Being in their 60s, the Mellingers don’t have plans for more kids. But a good school district is a plus in terms of a home’s resale value, Ken said.

Six days after moving in on Dec. 15, the Mellingers had the whole family over, 22 people around two tables in the basement. They all stayed overnight.

Their new home has four bedrooms, including three on the second floor and one on the first. Ken’s office in the basement can be counted as a fifth bedroom, Beth says. Everyone who visits is surprised over how much room there is inside, compared to how it looks outside.

At 2,800 square feet including the basement, their new house in Woodland Hills is much larger than their old house in Lower Paxton Township.

Yet their electric bill in Woodland Hills is much less — about $70 a month compared to $150. They also have natural gas, which is to be available throughout Woodland Hills.

The taxes they pay living in Middletown are about $1,000 a year higher than in their old house in Lower Paxton Township. But the lower utility costs in Woodland Hills compensates for that, Ken says. “It’s a wash.”

Address challenges

Changing the address on their driver’s license was a bit of a challenge because, as with GPS, their new address in Woodland Hills didn’t show up in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation system.

They had to bring their mail to PennDOT to document that their new address existed, but they couldn’t get the post office to deliver their mail at first because — you guessed it, they didn’t exist.

It took about 30 days to get it straightened out, but now the Mellingers get home-delivered mail just like normal people. They were the guinea pigs, but anyone else moving into Woodland Hills shouldn’t have the same issue.

None of the roads in Woodland Hills have been deeded over to the borough yet, but that hasn’t been a problem either. The contractor working for CB Burkholder did a good job plowing the roads over winter, Ken says.

The Mellingers look forward to welcoming new neighbors. Beth wants to have a block party, as soon as there’s an entire block of people to invite.

In their old house in Lower Paxton, the Mellingers  were outsiders moving into a long-established neighborhood. People stuck to themselves, and it was hard to fit in.

But here, in on the start of Woodland Hills, the Mellingers feel they have a unique opportunity.

“We wanted to try to live somewhere where there is a different culture,” Ken said. “Here we get to establish it.”