Editor's note: This story has been updated to provide additional information.
At a lively meeting Thursday night, developer David Jaindl defended his dealings with Lower Macungie Township commissioners and called residents' criticisms "unfair."
Jaindl, whose proposed development of more than 600 acres in Lower Macungie has sparked an expensive legal fight, listened to residents complain to commissioners about their fears that the construction will lead to overcrowded roads and flooding, among other problems.
One township resident suggested three of the commissioners, Roger Reis, Ryan Conrad and Ron Eichenberg, should abstain from voting on matters involving Jaindl's plans because they work in real estate, which could be a conflict of interest.
Then for the first time since the township’s Zoning Hearing Board case on Nov. 29 which moved him a step closer to building nearly 700 homes, a shopping center and warehouses on farmland in Lower Macungie, Jaindl commented publicly about it.
This turkey farmer turned developer ruffled more than a few feathers when he took control of the podium and apologized to board president Roger Reis that he didn’t have a prepared speech. Here are excepts of what he said:
“I think [Zoning Hearing Board Chairman] Bill Royer said it very well when it came to the 2009 vote," Jaindl said."It wasn’t this board which made a decision. At the recommendation of a former solicitor some changes were made to down-zone and devalue much of the property that we’re talking about. That’s a fact.
“What isn’t probably well-known is that there were public hearings, and I don’t remember seeing anybody in this room -- or any of the objectors -- coming to the meetings throughout the summer of 2009 when this was up for debate between the planning commission and those commissioners. The planning commission, by in large, was against what was being proposed. Some of the staff was not even asked what their opinions were.
“But the board, through the recommendation of the former solicitor, proceeded. I came to every single one of those meetings. It was myself and my attorney. No one else showed up. The planning commission members and the commissioners will say I lobbied against what they were proposing to do.
“If that would have been listened to and our words heard, we wouldn’t be here tonight. You folks came in 2010 and were responsible for cleaning up those concerns.”
Jaindl said the protesters were unfair in their characterization of the commissioners as having secret agenda with his company.
“I have never done business with any of the five individuals (the current commissioners) up there,” Jaindl said. “I didn’t know them until 2010, but I respect what they did. I think it's extremely unfair of the characterization that was made tonight.’’
After winning the zoning hearing board decision, Jaindl still faces a fight. Lehigh County Judge Michele A. Varricchio ruled in court that residents weren't given adequate notice about zoning changes that would allow Jaindl to build nearly 700 homes, a shopping center and warehouses. residential and commercial development. Jaindl and the township are appealing.