Editor's Note: On Jan. 17 both the Upper Milford Supervisors and Lower Macungie Commissioners met. Since both governing bodies talked about the same topic, this story is the first of a collaborative effort to present the information in the context the region as a whole in the spirit of the Southwestern Lehigh Comprehensive Plan.
There’s a feud a-brewin’ in the southwestern corner of Lehigh County that could ultimately rival that of the Hatfields and McCoys.
The source of the dispute? What the Upper Milford Board of Supervisors feels to be the uncontrolled and ill-conceived land development in Lower Macungie Township. It was that development and what, if anything, Upper Milford Township can do about it, that became the focus of a spirited discussion between the supervisors and the Upper Milford residents in attendance at the Jan. 17 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Some might say that what happens in Lower Macungie is none of Upper Milford’s business. But that’s not exactly the case as a result of a document known as the Southwestern Lehigh County Comprehensive Plan. Signed by six municipalities in 2005, the comprehensive plan is designed to control development and preserve open space and it mandates that those who signed the agreement send to the other partners notice of any potential zoning changes for review and comment.
The six partner municipalities involved in the comprehensive plan are Upper and Lower Milford and Lower Macungie townships and the boroughs of Macungie, Alburtis and Emmaus.
A series of potential zoning changes in Lower Macungie and the Upper Milford Planning Commission’s reaction to those zoning changes sparked the discussion at the Jan. 17 Upper Milford Supervisors meeting.
The Planning Commission’s concerns came before the supervisors in the form of a memo by Planning Coordinator Brian Miller regarding a notice received by Lower Macungie and the potential rezoning of eight acres of farmland at Quarry Road and Route 100.
In addition to his concerns about the potential rezoning, Miller’s memo asked the Upper Milford Board of Supervisors to write a letter to Lower Macungie stating that the zoning changes Lower Mac is considering are inconsistent with the Southwestern Lehigh Comprehensive Plan.
The Lower Macungie zoning changes that were being discussed at the very same time concern an 8-acre plot of farmland -- currently zoned Agricultural Protected -- at Quarry Road and Route 100. A strip of acreage across Quarry Road is zoned Commercial - Spring Creek and behind the commercial strip is acreage owned by the the East Penn School District.
Lee Mescolotto and Robert Gatti of Pottstown filed a request on Jan. 8 with Lower Macungie Township to rezone the eight acres of AP farmland to commercial so it can be developed.
The Lower Mac BOC voted unanimously on Jan. 17 to ask the Lower Mac Planning Commission to review and recommend what should be done then send it back to the BOC for action at some point in the future.
Upper Milford Supervisor Robert Sentner, who has expressed his extreme upset with the development going on in Lower Mac at past supervisors meetings, wants to do more than send a letter. He called for Upper Milford Township to take the lead in setting up a meeting with all of the Southwestern Lehigh Comprehensive Plan partners, the two school districts serving those municipalities – East Penn and Southern Lehigh – PennDOT, and the state representatives serving the communities.
“I’ve complained about Lower Mac before and I am going to do it again,” Sentner said. “They want to take something zoned agricultural/residential and turn it into commercial. We are going to wind up with a Macarthur Road on Route 100.
“Upper and Lower Macungie are devastating the prime agricultural land that we have. I don’t care who I offend. It’s a quality of life issue. That’s what it’s boiling down to. The southern portion of Lehigh County is being destroyed,” he said.
Some have said the small plot at Quarry Road and Route 100 represent the first domino to fall as a result of the entire Spring Creek/Jaindl plan
In the end, the supervisors unanimously voted to both direct township staff to send a letter to Lower Macungie Township and set up the meeting Sentner described. That meeting would be held at the Upper Milford Township Building and be open to the public, although a date and time have yet to be determined.
In particular, a proposed Lower Macungie Township development project on a tract of land on Route 100 next to Allen Organ was of concern to both the supervisors and residents last night. If completed, that project could result in a supermarket, gas stations and 100 townhomes, according to Sentner, who expressed particular concern about the strain such development will put on East Penn School District.