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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.

Mark Spengler February 08, 2013 at 10:52 AM
Build baby build! If the zoning doesn't allow it just change it. Looks like it will be time to build a new school. Is the developer or the BOC going to pay for that? Highest density to date in the twsp?
leah papp February 08, 2013 at 11:50 AM
That is terrible! Shame on the township! All they care about is money in their pockets. No vision or real understanding of how this pact our community. They do not care about quality and character. Once it is paved there is no going back.
Ellen February 08, 2013 at 01:00 PM
I agree with Mark, I am concerned about the schools...Willow is outdated already and just opened a few years ago....I hope the board takes this into consideration..
ron February 08, 2013 at 01:01 PM
Cha Ching. Money talks common sense walks. I think everybody knew this would happen. I mean did anyone seriously expect anything different from the Lower Macungie Board of Realtors!
LMTnative February 08, 2013 at 01:53 PM
It was the most ridiculous excuse for a hearing that I've ever seen. The developer didn't even present the project to the public. There was do meaningful discussion. The only discussion that occurred was the township staff, BOC members, and developer patting each other on the back for their great cooperation in approving the project. All the while BOC president Eichenberg was sitting there with a sh_t eating grim on his face waiting to count his commission. The LMT Board of Realtors are helping their developer cronies at the expense of the residents and future generations.
Trish February 08, 2013 at 01:54 PM
What will happen with the existing Weis building? Will it become an empty eyesore for years to come (like the old Ames in Trexlertown) until they decide to knock it down for more apartments? The 300 apartments they already plan on equals 300 families who will not be paying taxes but will attend the already overcrowded schools causing another increase in our taxes.
Vic February 08, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Theor goes alot more FARMLAND! This is so unbelieveabe what the board approves and YES it all comes down to money and loss of great farmland soil that food for animals or even Humans to grow that food on.Keep going board keep approving land for building on and the people will be paying more to eat and survive do to everything will have to be trucked in from other states.Well I said it before and I will say it again welcome to New York city instead of calling itMacungir.With 300 familiy apartments X how mant people are in each family wow there will be more than 1 school needed to be built and also the Police Dept will need to hire even more officers to patroll that area and just where is all that money coming from let me guess.The taxes will be going up even more and I have to say people are struggling now to pay taxes in Pa..This is just so unreal anymore.The people of that area really need to truely replace some board members that will do something to stop handing out building permits and value what open land is still around.Also think about it with that many more families the next thing the board will want is more parks and just imagine where that money will need to come from.You guessed it from the residents that live there.Its truly time to stop and say NO!and maybe the boards of that area among many others need to put a ballot out to their residents to get their votes on prodjects to be approved in thier area.
Rob Hamill February 08, 2013 at 02:50 PM
This is what happens when you put 3 professional real estate developers on a board. If anyone wants to run against the current board for the Comissioner seats, CEPTA will be having a petition signing event and political know how on Tues February 19 at 7:30 at 6th and Broad in Emmaus(Fire Co #1). If you are mad, do something about it, don't just sit and stew. Petitions will be available there, or contact the Lehigh County voter registration office.
Ron Beitler February 08, 2013 at 04:47 PM
@Trish it's a question I've asked.... Other municipalities have built in guarantees in exchange for new or special uses, greater density/intensity, waivers or other regulatory flexibility. In other words, you want something (special treatment) you have to give something. I would have liked to see the township request Weis bring the old store up to current shopping center guidelines. That I know of we did nothing like this. In fact many times the store moving will actually build in restrictions on what can go into the old building to avoid competition. Weis may very well require that no supermarket or similar store can go into the old building. This board loves giving away value (density/intensity) for nothing. They just straight up hand it out. Case in point the Jaindl "negotiations" plan A is universally considered terrible. It wasn't until the residents got involved that Jaindl offered plan 'B'. The current board is either the worse 'negotiators' on the planet, or they genuinely favor the shoehorning of the entire township. www.ronbeitler.com
Ron Beitler February 08, 2013 at 04:55 PM
@Native... Did you go? I didn't. Saw enough of these over the last 3 years. Each commissioner knew exactly how they were going to vote. It's a damn shame but it wouldn't matter if 300 people showed up. Case in point Jaindl subdivision around 125 people showed up in opposition at a meeting. I'd say 123 were opposed 1 strongly another very tepidly spoke out in favor. It doesn't matter. These hearings are required so they go through the motions cause they have to. And yes big ole commission coming for the Ron Eichenberg. http://www.showcase.com/b/commercial-real-estate/Ron-Eichenberg/4020440#&&/wEXAQURV29ya2Zsb3dIaXN0b3J5SUQFJDBlZmMzZGM5LTBkMzAtNDhjZS1iOWViLTY5NmJhYjRmMmQxYZwP+eHusFmtUrXrs6XJhLC/6zc1 9 million list price... 2-4% of that.... do the math.
Ron Beitler February 08, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Would love to have a STRONG 3rd candidate in addition to Brian Higgins and myself. Please if you are interested email me at ronbeitler@gmail.com
InFloodZone February 08, 2013 at 05:25 PM
"This does not approve the project," exclaims always-honest Lancsek. Right. And it just HAS to be built for the new Weis because driving an additional few miles to the many other local grocery stores would be such an enormous albatross.
Robert Sentner February 08, 2013 at 09:09 PM
This is going to impact Macungie big time, can't believe there was no comment from them. Just wait till Macks, the new Weis with gas stations, the old weis whatever it is going to be converted into, 200 Apts, First student, and the normal Macungie traffic hits. Congrats to Eichenberg, Reiss, and Conrad on another victory on your total destruction of our part of the county, yes your poor decisions (plural as there are many) effect more than just LMT.
Guy Ramsey February 08, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Really sorry to read about this. Bob, don't be too rough on the Borough. They are impotent against this. Really flies in the face of regional planning.
Janet Persing February 08, 2013 at 11:01 PM
Please proofread and correct before you post your comments. The rest of us don't understand what you are trying to say. And I'm a LMT native also.
Janet Persing February 08, 2013 at 11:05 PM
Trish, how do you think that "300 families who will not be paying taxes" makes any sense? Do you think that apartment dwellers don't pay taxes? It's included in their rent.
Janet Persing February 08, 2013 at 11:07 PM
That would be "affect"
Janet Persing February 08, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Your rant would be more helpful with some punctuation. So the rest of us can understand what you are saying. You speak about "the people of that area..." where do you live? If you are not local, what is your ax to grind?
Janet Persing February 08, 2013 at 11:36 PM
How is Willow Lane Elementary outdated? It's just been built!
Robert Sentner February 09, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Guy, I agree to a point. yes this is a regional problem, but just like the NIZ Arena if enough communities make the effort to speak there mind I think we can change the outcome. All that aside whether you can change the outcome or not I think it is a duty to your community to at least voice your opinion and stand up for your residents, not throw your hands up and say there is nothing we can do. And if Macungie truly feels that it isn't an issue that's fine. I just don't see how 200 apts and a new super Weis with gas pumps, the highest land use in all of the area isn't going to put an undo load on the schools, police and roadways in the area. Janet thank you for the correction.
Scott Bieber February 09, 2013 at 05:13 AM
I don't want to hear some excuse for Macungie being too "impotent" to comment on this. Macungie Borough Council should have been very concerned about how this project will affect the borough. They are part of the regional planning group with Lower Macungie, and as such they have an obligation to comment. If they truly have "no comment" about this project, then they have shirked their duty to their citizenry which will be negatively impacted by this project and council should be ashamed. Also disappointed with comment from Lower Mac engineer Bill Erdman suggesting that Weis may move out if they don' t have this project for their new store. Despite their pathetic operation as a supermarket, Weis is doing good business where they are. They have a captive community locked down. But they want more room for a bigger store and the all important gas pumps, and the commissioners were glad to oblige. And the notion that this will spur bus mass transit is ridiculous. Only much higher fuel prices will spur that. People still love their cars, Unless the apartments go Section 8, then we might get more bus riders. As a smart growth project, this piece of land could have been put to much better use.
Robert Sentner February 09, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Guy, Scott and any other concerned citizen, We are working on putting a meeting together for all of the SW comp members, School districts, developers and "ANYONE" that has concerns about our uncontrollable development. I don't want this to be a beat up LMT meeting, as I have done enough of that. I would like this to be an actual meeting where we talk about possible solutions and future needs. I think we have one of the greatest areas to live in and would like to see some honest conversation about where we are headed. We all know that the SW comp plan is just that a plan with NO ramifications if someone doesn't adhere to it there are no penalties. We need a plan that holds people responsible for there actions. I have stated it more than once "one boro, township or cities decisions effect much much more than the people in there borders"
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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