Despite the ugly weather, almost 40 people turned out Jan. 18 as the Lower Macungie Township Planning Commission addressed some of the traffic mitigation issues surrounding David Jaindl’s plans to develop more than 500 acres of farmland in the southwest corner of the township.
The commission reorganized during the first few minutes of the meeting, establishing Irvin Keister as chairman, Maury Robert as vice chairman and Neill Dekker as secretary, all in unanimous votes.
And before the commission addressed the Jaindl Land Co. development, developer Tim Harrison presented what he called the “60th concept plan” for Hamilton Crossings, a shopping center to be located in the area of Hamilton Boulevard and Krocks Court.
Target was the retail anchor Harrison spoke of most, but Loew’s, BJ’s and ShopRite also were mentioned.
The newest evolution of the plans also includes several walkable areas for shoppers in addition to baseball and a softball ball fields and trails to best use green space.
The commissioners unanimously approved a motion stating it would write a letter to the township zoning board recommending the zoners approve numerous variances needed so that building can commence sooner than later.
“Target would like to open in 2012, so we would have to start building this year,” Harrison said.
By the time the commissioners reached the Jaindl items on the agenda, several people had filtered out.
Township Engineer William Erdman’s remarks primarily dealt with traffic issues including how many additional evening rush hour vehicle trips current residents could expect.
But that number – though Jaindl said it would decrease to 2,031 additional rush hour vehicle trips from his previous cap of 4,000 – was ultimately speculation. Unknown factors such as who will occupy the warehouse buildings or even the proposed 700 homes to be built lie too far in the future to even make a solid guess about their impact.
Nevertheless, several township residents spoke in defense of more study and even further restraint.
Deana Zosky asked the commission to seek professionals who could provide a “life cost analysis” of what she called the largest project Lower Macungie Township has ever seen.
“I want to know the difference between the original land value and the land with the upzoning. How many jobs will be created? How much revenue will be coming in? And the waivers…what is the summary of cost of all waivers with their associated costs or benefits,” she asked.
“I have the right to know all these things,” she said, “It seems odd to me that you think about the widths of the roads but not the overall life costs associated with development.
Ann Friedenheim, a new Lower Macungie resident, said she moved to the country for a reason, to get away from the city.
She spoke to the road improvements the commissioners and engineers addressed earlier in the meeting.
“The amenities, enrichments and improvements you described before are improvements for truckers, not for me. More traffic lights for me to go through on my way to work in the morning are not improvements for me. I understand the density. I wish you would look at the impact on folks who live on these roads,” she said.
Her husband, Robert Csandl, also made a plea.
“There is a long range effect to this. We pay a tremendous price for short-term planning. …Taxpayers bear a long-term burden.
“It’s easy to get seduced into what we call progress. Mr. Jaindl is sitting on piece of nature that’s undervalued. As we’re approaching last piece of [township] land to develop, I think it’s being destroyed. It’s not a good kind of economics. It’s shortsighted, “ he said.
Zosky, Friedenheim and Csandl are all members of the Friends for the Protection of Lower Macungie Township, a group that opposes any development the more than 500 acres of Jaindl farmland in question.
Whether he agreed or not, Chairman Keister’s reply to the three residents was simple.
“What it comes down to is that the owner of this land has the right to develop it. We’re here to do the best we can for the township,” Keister said.