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Larry Schneider Voted Off Twp. Zoning Hearing Board

Commissioner Ron Eichenberg says Schneider's "polarizing nature" is the reason.

Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Larry Schneider joined the ranks of Bob Rust and Ron Beitler at the Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday when he was voted off the board on which he has served for the past six and a half years.

Schneider, who was instrumental in Lower Macungie's transition to a first class township in 2007, was dismissed from the township Zoning Hearing Board in a 5-2 vote: Douglas Brown, Ron Eichenberg and Roger Reis voted to elect Scott Aquila to the ZHB, effectively voting Schneider off.

Ryan Conrad and James Lancsek voted against the motion to elect Aquila.

Several township residents spoke on Schneider's behalf after the motion was made but before the vote was cast including Brian Higgins, Bill Royer, Jane Fretz, former commissioner Joseph Pugliese, Art Imdorf and others.

All spoke of Schneider's years-long devotion to the township.

Fretz accused the commissioners of "flagrant disregard for what is right," and "disdain for anyone who disagrees" with them.

"Your vindictiveness is not palatable," Fretz said, "I will be supporting new candidates."

After the vote, Schneider said he was "shocked and disappointed" not to be reappointed to the ZHB. He listed several boards and committees on which he has served.

"...I am one of the many totally disillusioned citizens who are tired of your petty, polarizing behavior, the badgering, the weak excuses for full transparency, the aggressive 'conflict of interest behavior,' the 'talking down to citizens who address the BOC -- making them feel inconsequential. I say, enough of this behavior," Schneider said.

Schneider also said he would be supporting Beitler and Higgins who this week have entered the race for the commissioners' seats -- Eichenberg's, Conrad's and Reis's -- that will be up for grabs this year.

The commissioner's took issue with Schneider's political statement and also railed against the "personal attacks" made against them by the members of the public who spoke out.

None of the five commissioners gave any reason for Schneider's rejection at any time during the voting process.

After the meeting, Commissioner President Ron Eichenberg said Schneider's "polarizing nature" was the reason for Schneider's ejection from the ZHB.

Public applicants, attorneys and contractors have complained that Schneider's "methods and approach are not instrumental to people working together," Eichenberg said.

Mark Spengler January 04, 2013 at 11:31 AM
After the meeting, Commissioner President Ron Eichenberg said Schneider's "polarizing nature" was the reason for Schneider's ejection from the ZHB. - Larry has served on the Zoning hearing Board for 6.5 years and during all of that time he has been outstanding. Nothing he did on that board was polarizing. The ploarizing presence in the twsp. is the present BOC minus Jim Lancsek. Larry was removed because he has dared to have different opinions than the majority board. This is a case of once again blackballing a citizen volunteer for not falling in line. What a disgrace!
Mark Spengler January 04, 2013 at 11:40 AM
I was amazed last night when Reis, Eichenberg, and Conrad talked about being personally attacked. All criticism has been political. I would ask these members to provide any evidence that Larry was a polarizing figure or that these commissioners have been attacked personally. Elected leaders in a democracy should expect to be challenged. This is a much needed part of the democratic process.
Ron Beitler January 04, 2013 at 12:41 PM
"Public applicants, attorneys and contractors have complained that Schneider's methods and approach are not instrumental to people working together," Eichenberg said. Remember what the Zoning Hearing Board does. They hear requests for zoning relief in other words exceptions to the rules. Yes, thats gonna tick off developers and lawyers sometimes. Especially when you have someone who was as completely thorough as Larry Schneider was for 6 years. This quote shows once again who has the influence in the township. The developers and attorneys. No doubt Eichenbergs 36 acre Allen Organ project will be in front of the Zoning Board as most large greenfield development projects are. Want someone off a board? Just talk President Eichenberg! Remember who these commissioners look out for. The lawyers and developers. This is just another example. The largest perhaps is the Jaindl memo. Here is the "memo" where lawyers dictated a timeline for a zoning change. http://www.ronbeitler.com/2013/01/02/jaindl-timeline-open-and-transparant-process-or-pre-determined-outcome/
MS January 04, 2013 at 01:03 PM
I cannot wait to see those three seats changed. I personally believe Ryan Conrad for one is running with his tail between his legs and trying to cover up some of his crappy decisions. He wants another term, he won't see another term because the citizens of lower Mac won't be fooled twice
Ron Beitler January 04, 2013 at 01:04 PM
More insight..Aquila who was elevated to alternate did interview very well. He comes from service on the Public Safety commission and was great on that board. I am disappointed the BOC decided to weaken one board to appoint Scott to another as an alternate. Essentially the move took him out of the lineup to place him on the bench as an alternate of the ZHB. Next I attended many full hearings over the last couple months that Larry presided over. Many involved homeowners and small business owners rather then developers. Larry was very patient with residents working with them. Many requests were granted with conditions. For example, Italiano Delite requested relief for it's new outdoor dining on Brookside road. In this case especially Larry did an excellent job balancing the concerns of neighbors and the rights of the business owner. Lastly, I see Doug Brown at ZHB hearings. I know Jim Lancsek has attended more then his share through the last 6 years that Larry has been on the board. But I've never seen Eichenberg, Conrad or Reis at one that Larry presided over. The people last night who spoke in favor of Larry have seen him in action extensively. Bill Royer ZHB member, Brian Higgins ZHB member, Commissioner Lancsek, Former Commissioner Pugliese, Fmr ZHB Bob Rust..... Funny that folks who I've never seen at a ZHB hearing cite "lawyers and builders" as a reason for removing someone. I just wish they said anything, anything at all about his actual performance on the board.
Rob Hamill January 04, 2013 at 02:09 PM
When you have Eichenburg as a large commercial real estate broker(who will benefit as the broker of record to the new Allen Organ development), you take away any shame on the appearance of impropriety(official meetings at developers offices), voila, you get crony capitalism from the most polarizing board we have ever had. Talk to your neighbors about removing the incumbents in the next election, cause their side will have plenty of special interest money.
Rob Hamill January 04, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Also, Eichenberg, Ryan, and Reiss who are all up for re-election are all realtors, or married to one. Reiss, an ex-cop on pension, is also in charge of looking at a new police force. Their development zoning changes will mean new taxes for a new high school, and a new police force would probably add 50% to our taxes. The consequences of rehiring the crony capitalists is a burden of higher taxes on us and our children.
Sheriffchris January 04, 2013 at 03:08 PM
This just highlights the 'JOKE" leadership we have in Macungie. We need a clean sweep here...these folks are old, tired and dried out !!!!
careless fills January 04, 2013 at 08:44 PM
LMT has been controlled by the real estate developers and power companies for decades. Some of the names have changed, but the song remains the same. Witness the names that were on the EPSD school board 25 years ago. The biggest difference is that Jaindl's were big enough to wait until now. And some who benefitted from or moved in during earlier building waves are saying NIMBY today!
Janet Persing January 04, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Are you commenting on the Borough of Macungie, whose leadership is Mayor Richard Hoffman...or on Lower Macungie Township, whose leadership is a 5-member board of commissioners? Too many people who live here don't understand that there is a difference. Our mailing address is the same, but the politics and people are not.
Janet Persing January 04, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Are you a mind-reader? Why don't you stick to the facts to make your argument?
Janet Persing January 04, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Here is some insight on Larry Schneider. A few years ago I attended a LMT BOC meeting. Larry didn't get what he wanted--whatever it was, to speak, etc.--and stood up and huffed out. Major drama. Unfortunately, I was sitting behind him, and when he slung his huge jacket around, the zipper nearly took my eye out. I ducked. Larry never even noticed. He stomped out. He is a tone deaf dude and cannot keep his emotions under control. Temper tantrums we don't need.
Janet Persing January 04, 2013 at 09:56 PM
Larry Schneider is polarizing. Too bad he can't get along with his fellow human beings. And apparently, Larry doesn't care!
Mark Spengler January 05, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Respectfully Janet I know Larry pretty well and he has a lot of friends and associates. Does he have strong opinions? Sure. I've disagreed with him from time to time and we get along fine. What is so polarizing? When did Americans become so thin skinned? Also, this is about the zoning hearing board. Where is the evidence that he was polarizing on that board? Brian Higgins, Bill Royer and Bob Rust all served with him on the board and recomended he be reapproved. Plenty of others spoke on his behalf. He gets along fine with the vast majority of human beings that he comes across.
West January 05, 2013 at 03:26 AM
Let me ask a simple question. The LMT Commissioners appointed Brian Higgins to the ZHB, was that a bad decision? No, that was a good decision. Here's another simple question. Was it a bad decision to elevate Thomas Sesta to the ZHB and appoint Scott Aquila as an alternate? No, that was a good decision. Larry Schneider should be commended for his service to LMT, but that doesn't negate the fact that the Commissioners appointed good people to serve on the ZHB.
Mark Spengler January 05, 2013 at 04:14 AM
West you and I both know that the board reappoints incumbents on a regular basis. What was different here? Are you suggesting it is better that Bob Rust and Larry Schneider were removed? Do you have any idea how much experience and leadership qualities these two men had? Thomas Sesta and Scott Aquilla were already serving the township. The difference is that the other tow are now gone. Yeah, I'm saying it was the wrong decision. I'm sure now some will say that I'm engaging in a personal attack of one sort or another.
Ron Beitler January 05, 2013 at 11:36 AM
@ West Can't disagree with that. Aquila interviewed really well. He's one of, if not the strongest member on the public safety commission.. critical given the issues surrounding willow lane. Basically took him out the starting lineup on PC to sit him on the bench on the ZHB. (Per rules you cannot sit on another board if your on the ZHB) Now have to respect that Aquila realized this and made the decision to position himself for the ZHB. But the board should take into account keeping all boards strong. Sesta since he's an alternate I've not seen in 'action'. An alternate served on one hearing I watched and I can't recall if it was him. This is the last I'm going to say about this. Cause I really want to start talking about other issues.. What's missing here is: Critique on Larry's actual job performance. The fact the board always re-appoints incumbents. Ambiguous post meeting references to "lawyers and builders" complaining does not cut it. If I were Larry I would RTK for any written correspondence (if it actually exists) outlining criticism. It's important to understand the ZHB which I think you do. It's nature isn't (shouldn't be) political.The Appellant is obligated to meet their 5 hardship tests and the board rules according to the ordinance and the MPC.
Ron Beitler January 05, 2013 at 11:58 AM
When I disagree with the board I have always laid out what I would do different: Re-appointments: If I have reason to vote not to reappoint someone, I'll present references to actual performance issues. Without facts, decision reeks of political motivation..AKA someone not agreeing with me. I value opinions different from mine and would value these on volunteer boards. If someone's dropping the ball, I would show during a public meeting why.. i.e. attendance, mismanagement, with ZHB for ex. not adhering to the MPC ect. If there is an issue I would also make an effort to actually attend a meeting myself not rely on anecdotal evidence. If complaints were made I would ask for submittal in writing. "lawyers, builders and developers" have rights. But they need to put them on paper for vetting in public meeting.. not attempt to pull strings from the shadows. Handling other good volunteers willing to serve: Can't let good people go. Why I've advocated for (to no avail, never got a reason why.. still waiting) creating Ad-hoc positions across the board on all commissions/committees. On the Pcom for example we've turned away good volunteers in the past because there wasn't space. An ad-hoc position would allow someone qualified with interest to sit on the board in a non-voting role, participating in discussion and "learning the ropes" until space opens. This is important for technical positions like the planning commission.
Michael D Siegel January 05, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Ron- simply expand the PC to 7 or nine members. A municipality of our size, usually has more members which offer more smart growth ideas to each development project. I would also change the saldo to require all plans to first go through a EAC review for recommendations as well. Its time developers work with the municipalities rather than against them for better communities
Janet Persing January 08, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Having reviewed the podcast of the 1-3-13 meeting, I heard Larry Schneider call the commissioners "corrupt" and "Vindictive" (not all in the same breath). So I think that qualifies as a personal attack. Larry has accused the BOC of the same sins as he exhibits. Stop the fighting, please!
Jack Tibbetts January 12, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Working with Larry for over a year on Citizens for Change, I never heard Larry make a "polarizing" statement (can't say that for myself), or even a partisan political statement. He is a fair and tireless worker and we are fortunate to have him as a volunteer in the township. The Commissioners have shown themselves to be political hacks, or worse, like the ones we dis-elected in 2007.

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