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Farmland Next to Allen Organ Approved for Apartments, Shopping Center and More

All five Lower Macungie Commissioners agreed to amend the commercial district regulations for land next to Allen Organ.

The Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to amend commercial district regulations involving the farmland next to Allen Organ, just outside the borough of Macungie.

Ordinance 2013-01 allows multi-family apartment dwellings and gas stations as conditional uses to the land which is zoned C-Commercial.

The vote was unanimous at 4-0 with Commissioner President Ron Eichenberg abstaining since he is the realtor of record for the property. Eichenberg, who recently announced he will run for re-election did not participate in any discussion, but remained in his seat on the dais for the duration.

The ordinance also provides for "...lot area, width, building requirements and additional standards for multi-family apartment dwellings...establishing off-street parking and loading requirements for multi-family dwellings...restaurants, taverns and shopping centers..."

One of the biggest issues with changing how the land is used is traffic, many say. Restaurants, apartments and a shopping center would dump a huge amount of traffic onto Route 100 just outside of the borough of Macungie, they say.

Additionally, the development of 200 apartments on 30 acres would produce the highest density in the township.

"This does not approve the project," Commissioner James Lancsek said. There will be ample opportunity for public comment, and the so-called Remington Plan will have to go through the township usual planning and zoning procedures before commissioners vote to approve it.

Township Engineer William Erdman spoke out in favor of the project for several reasons.

"I’ve been very supportive of this project from the beginning especially because of all the negative feedback it has received.

"It's a very unique project: it encourages walkability and could be the catalyst for public transit. Lanta says project of this sort could be catalyst to run buses to Macungie...

"It aligns with smart growth in many respects," he said.

Erdman also mentioned the possibility of the Weis Market moving across the street to the Remington development from its current location.

"Weis could close and leave if can’t expand and compete with Wegmans or the new Giant. People in the nearby assisted living facility count on the Weis. It would be a tremendous blow if it left," Erdman said.

Township resident Ron Beitler, who is also running for a seat on the board of commissioners, said, "I believe this is an example of building an ordinance to accomodate a sketch plan vs.  the best interests of the township."

Beitler, who has said this project is not smart growth, is mainly concerned with road connectivity within the development.

"When we force short local trips onto our arterial roads we create congestion. This leads an endless cycle of expensive “improvements” in attempting to increase capacity," Beitler said in a blog post.

"We must stop developing in isolated pods that dump the majority of traffic directly into single large arterial intersections," he said.

As part of the Southwestern Lehigh Regional Planning Commission, Lower Macungie Township sent letters weeks ago to the other municipalities involved to make them aware of the possibility of rezoning.

Some, such as Lower Milford Township and Macungie responded by saying they had no comment in letters that were shared at public meetings. Others, specifically a letter from Upper Milford Township which was provided to Patch, were plainly against the idea. Read them by clicking the links.

"The two letters posted on Patch that relate to this Zoning Amendment are misleading," Sara Pandl, Lower Macungie's chief planner said.

"The Township never received a letter from Upper Milford Township regarding the Remington or Shopping Center Zoning Ordinance.

"The letter from Upper Milford was an objection to the SALDO amendment that was enacted to streamlining review of minor projects. 

"The other is a letter from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission stating that the density of apartments and mixture of uses is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. They raised a caution about direct access onto a arterial road. This was a misunderstanding of the ordinance language.  The Ordinance requires location along an arterial as one of the criteria.  The access would be determined by what is safest," Pandl said.

Ron Beitler February 09, 2013 at 06:42 PM
I try not to "beat them up" too much but it's clear now, that they don't listen to alternative ideas. They are in the game to give away something (intensity/density/exceptions/waivers) for nothing. To expedite growth when we should be utilizing programs that get value back for these tradeoffs. Only recourse is election. Remember, it took a resident effort to get the Jaindl plan 'B'. BOC negotiations were a sad failure. I can only imagine what they were like since the public was not allowed to participate.... But I can guess it went something like this: LMT Commissioners: What do you we need to give you to avoid a quarry? Jaindl: Max warehouses, Max density housing and Max Highway commercial. LMT Commissioners: Ok! You got it! Plan 'B' shows they could have gotten less intensive development right off the bat. Clearly they didn't try, or didn't try hard enough. They just don't value open space. Allen Organ case in point number two. I would have advocated for a Transferable Development Program (which I did during a planning commission meeting). Here we could have talked about the zoning changes Weis/Remington wanted but only if they purchased development rights from another part of the township from another landowner. We need to get something for something! We need to have pride in our area. We need to protect our open space what little of it is left using mechanisms fair to landowners.
Ron Beitler February 09, 2013 at 06:50 PM
@Janet - You are right. Renters do pay property tax through their rent. My argument however is this is not the most efficient use of land from a tax base standpoint from a general standpoint. I can guess what would be better and I have my ideas. BUT unless we institute a lifecycle cost benefit analysis requirement (big issue for me!) in our land development process we'll never know and have to speculate. Everytime the board gives away value in the form of regulatory flexibility, special exceptions/waivers, intensity/density they should use this tool to see if the township is getting value for their free giveaway to developers. Thats the ONLY way to see if the taxpayer comes out on top. For ex: What are the costs of services such as fire, police? What are the longterm maintenance obligations? Stormwater, streets, ect.? What's would the value of the "giveaway" be in a TDR program? (density/Intensity) What could be preserved in exchange? What is the impact on the school district and school taxes? What upgrades will be needed to existing infrastructure? On and on.. you get the picture.
Lets Get Real February 09, 2013 at 11:11 PM
UGH!!!! It's time that Lower Macungie gets their own school district or for East Penn to get their own police. Being an Emmaus resident I'm tired of paying for our police to be at the high school EVERY DAY. I understand that there are kids there from other municipalities but 85-90 percent are from Lower Mac and Lower Mac residents don't even pay municipal tax!!! Commissioner's when is it going to stop? And Lower Mac get out of East Penn!!!
Carl W February 22, 2013 at 03:32 AM
"Janet Persing" Stick with the subject !!!
Jen Hines May 23, 2013 at 12:37 AM
How about we DON'T encourage low income apartments by just building them so quick and easy. How about we start encouraging people to better their lives and stop being so dependent on the tax payers money. I don't agree at all with this, keep Macungie clean!! At least if you're going to do something so greedy you might as well make it classier by putting actual nice homes in there. I don't mean a camp ground either I mean like 3 acres for each home. Macungie is a beautiful town, I wish people would admire the beauty of life and nature rather then admiring money. You know that greed is one of the 7 deadly sins so watch your step ;)

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