Dear Neighbor,

This is my blog for news and information on my hometown Lower Macungie Township! In January 2014 I was sworn in for a 4 year term as township Commissioner. I am humbled and grateful for the support of Lower Macungie Residents. We prevailed in the 2013 election running a grassroots campaign that focused on quality of life and fiscal sustainability through smart growth. The election was another referendum on the unpopular development decisions and “dumb growth” policies of 2009-2013.

As a lifelong resident of Lower Macungie and a local business owner I am proud to serve as Lower Macungie Township Commissioner. This is my blog. It serves as a record of 2 years of advocating for A Better Way to Grow. Here you can find information on local concerns, letters and op-eds I’ve written outlining my thoughts on various issues that affect our community.

Please browse the site. Use the search bar to find my thoughts on the issues facing Lower Macungie and the surrounding community. I welcome questions and comments always. Dialogue is so important and what I hope to bring to the table as a Commissioner.

Ron Beitler
Lower Macungie Commissioner serving a 4 year term

Want to keep taxes low? Preserve Open Space.


Large contiguous tract of farmland in Lower Macungie Township

(Submitted as LTE to LMT Patch and an abbreviated version to EPP)

Preserving open space with a smart growth plan reduces costs for infrastructure and services, therefore over the long term reducing the need for tax increases. Farmland and open space generate no traffic, create no crime, needs little fire protection and places no new students into our school system.

Continue reading

Latest quarry concept plan 2 phase line item budget.

The latest line item budget for the Quarry Park concept plan. Needless to say I have some major concerns. The total project over 2 phases is now potentially up and over 6M dollars.

If I am reading this correctly (I have asked for clarification) the turf component specifically (including items directly related to turf) is about 60%+ of Phase 1.

From day 1 my objection to this has been the financial justification for the turf component of the project.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 12.11.57 PM

Lower Macungie Township Polling Places

POLLING PLACES for May 19th 2015 municipal primary
Lower Macungie 1st
Grace Community Church 1290 Minesite Rd.

Lower Macungie 2nd
Bethany United Methodist Church 1208 Brookside Rd., Wescosville

Lower Macungie 3rd
Clubhouse, Fairways at Brookside Whitemarsh Place, Fairways at Brookside

Lower Macungie 4th
St. Anne’s Episcopal Church 6667 Lower Macungie Rd.

Lower Macungie 5th
Lower Mac. Community Center 3400 Brookside Rd.

Lower Macungie 6th
Church of the Good Shepherd Penn Ave. and Quarry Rd., Alburtis

Lower Macungie 7th
Concordia Lutheran Church (lower level) 2623 Brookside Road

Lower Macungie 8th
Macungie Ambulance Corps 5550 N Walnut St, Macungie (behind Buckeye)

Lower Macungie 9th
Village at Willow Lane 6488 Alburtis Rd.

Lower Macungie 10th
Lehigh Commons Assisted Living 1680 Spring Creek Rd.

Be a farmland preservation voter

I make no bones about it. I am a smart growth and farmland preservation voter. If you care about the future of the township you should be also.

I write primarily on this blog about smart growth issues and specifically how I see it as a key to the financial resiliency of places. This includes Lower Macungie. If you want to keep taxes low over the long term you must preserve open space.

On May 19th I’m encouraging folks to be a farmland preservation voter. All these candidates are Republicans but any voter can (and should) write in pro farmland preservation candidates. I am looking forward to learning positions of Democrat candidates before the general election. RenewLV will be tackling this in a non-partisan fashion.

FACTS: Reasons to protect farmland
-Preserving farmland keeps taxes low
-Farmland is Industrial infrastructure and an economic resource
-Protecting farmland and open space increases property values!
-Protecting farmland is great for the environment
-Lehigh Valley residents overwhelmingly support open space!

COUNTY – VOTE: Marty Nothstein
I have endorsed others but one candidate stands out in the realm of preservation. That is Marty Nothstein. When asked the question at a recent event “Do you support restoring county funding of the preservation program” he answered in the most straightforward fashion of all the candidates. He stated unequivocally that we need to find a way to get it done. This is critical at the county level because for every dollar the county budgets for preservation the commonwealth matches it with 2.50. The county program and the ability to leverage state dollars is a critical component to balancing our land use issues in Lower Macungie.


TOWNSHIP – VOTE: Ron R. Beitler and Doug Brown
Over the last year we’ve made some strides. Not quickly enough for my liking but that’s how government works. Slowly.

First and foremost preservation tools that exist haven’t been promoted much or really at all from 2010-2013. There were seated Commissioners not even aware of mechanisms in place. By simply promoting what is already in place we’re about to get 50+ acres preserved off Mountain Rd. The landowner just needed to be introduced to the preservation program and other benefits. I personally worked to connect her with the county farmland preservation director.

Moving forward the remaining Commissioners slow to come to the table on preservation issues are now finally all on board. (conveniently, now that we’re in election season.) I think this is because I demonstrated with my election that farmland preservation is very popular with voters in the township. Better late vs. never I suppose? While I’m happy we are all in apparent agreement there are some differing opinions on how to fund the program. This was my initial proposals. Both used no residential taxpayer money. Other Commissioners want to fund with debt.  Here is an article on some issues with debt.

Moving forward we need Commissioners who will support preservation year round (not just before an election) and also one very important additional policy item. That is the adoption of an official map. This is an invaluable tool that Upper Milford just used to potentially preserve a 126 acre farm that if developed would exasperate traffic issues on Rt. 29. Here is an overview of the official map. What it is and how it can be utilized as a preservation tool. The EAC who has for the last year championed preservation issues has formally requested a discussion on the official map. This will happen in the next month. Both Doug Brown and myself support adopting an official map.

To keep the momentum going I ask that you be a farmland preservation voter on May 19th and cast your vote for my father Ron R. Beitler & Doug Brown. 

A word on Jim Lancsek and Ben Galliardo: I respect both Jim and Ben greatly as people. Jim is a great guy who I genuinely like. Ditto with Ben. Unfortunately, when it comes to land use, smart growth and preservation Jim and I agree on very little. He is about as “pro development” as it gets. There is no other nicer way to put it.

Ben is another great guy and longtime invaluable township employee. What worries me is that fact… I’ve seen it before where a longtime employee is too slow to change because “that’s the way the township has always done it“. Ben might be a great commissioner if the township didn’t require more outside the box thinking. But unfortunately status quo has in fact led to situations where we must have outside the box thinkers.

Ben is unfortunately to “inside the system”. We do not need anymore inside baseball. Alot of the embedded ways of thinking are why we’re in the situations we are in. Ben also has unfortunately been light on actual platform items. What I mean is, there is literally not one place I can look to or link to and see what he stands for and what his platform planks are. “Good guy” is not good enough reason to cast a vote.

About Doug Brown: Doug’s been criticized in letters being circulated around the township for being too hard on staff. For questioning policies and plans. For ruffling too many feathers. I see this all as positive traits in a Commissioner. We’re lucky in that we have a great staff. But our job isn’t to be buddies with them. Our job is to evaluate and set policy. To question status quo and to improve the township. I have a good relationship with staff. Particularly Sara our planner who I have immense respect for. But end of the day we can’t be afraid to “ruffle feathers” if that’s what needs to be done. If Doug has questions about issues it’s his job as a commissioner to ask questions during public meetings and that is exactly what he does. Sure, it might make meetings go a little later sometimes. But so be it. The public isn’t privvy to what gets “worked out before meetings”. The business of the public should be done in the public.

Doug also in 2009 right after he was appointed as commissioner proposed one of the most important pieces of policy in the township. The Traffic Impact Fee. Today we are using that program to address traffic issues in the township. Unfortunately, not all commissioners have had buy-in with the impact fee. It could be more effective if it had not been waived for the largest projects.


Young Republican County Commissioners Debate – Farmland Preservation Topic

A question was posed to Republican County Commissioner candidates about funding Farmland Preservation initiatives at a recent Young Republicans debate. Attending were all 5 (R) candidates for Lehigh County Commissioner. When it comes time for the general election RenewLV will pose the same question to all candidates again including Democrats.

Backgrounder: The County in the past has allocated funds to the farmland preservation fund ranging from 2M annually from 2006-2010 to a low of 0 in 2011. In 2015 the county allocated 250,000. When the County allocates money it receives $2.50 cents in commonwealth funding for every dollar.

My thoughts: Downzoning farmland is an unfair taking of property value therefore compensating landowners market value for development rights is the only fair and free market way to preserve farmland forever. Second, it’s a fact that preservation reduces local and state municipal obligations to provide services and infrastructure related to sprawl. For every dollar we spend to preserve farmland that is zoned suburban it saves us .15 to .50 cents on each one of those dollars down the road. This figure is even higher if we leverage our dollars with state and county.

For me, this is one of the most important issues as a voter. Preserving farmland is a key component in Lower Macungie’s strategy to keep taxes sustainably low over the long term. Learn more: Want to keep taxes low? Preserve farmland.

The question was posed “Would you support restoring funding of the County Farmland preservation program to previous levels” here are the answers paraphrased:

Marty Nothstein:  “I’m a conservationist” “I own preserved farmland” “Development is important but so is preserving our countryside””We need to look at more ways to preserve farms””We need to do a better job of finding strategic ways to preserve including partnering with townships” “We need to do a better job of finding money…” “When you have farmers that want to see their land protected forever, I think that’s important to residents of Lehigh County”

My thoughts: Marty was most aggressively positive in his answer. It’s very clear he is very much in favor of preserving farmland and even has done so himself. Based on this answer and conversations I’ve had with him it’s clear he would be a champion of funding the program as a Commissioner.

Amanda Holt: “Our natural resources our important and it’s something that’s talked about in the Pennsylvania Constitution.” “Important issue but I’m concerned the average age of farmers is now 57 here in Lehigh County. Looking at the cost I wonder if this is going to be an effective means of really preserving the farmland looking at the average age of farmers. This is something we really need to take look at. We do need to consider moving forward how we can adhere to what the state constitution says and what works best for our situation here in Lehigh County.”

My thoughts: Very good answer. Very impressed Amanda Holt referred to the state constitution. She is absolutely correct to do so. The state constitution in Article 1 section 27 says: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all.”

Amanda also was the only one to refer this last years funding. She correctly stated that the County funded 250,000. This led to a state match of 750,000.

Brad Osborne:  “I do know that farmland preservation has been promoted as a good program. The Green Futures Fund generated $20 million.  It ended.  Can we revive it?  Farmland absorbs only .33 cents of every tax dollar generated whereas residential requires over a dollar” “Specific requests need to be in line with the bigger picture.  A larger plan is needed.” “Property tax reform could change the entire question.”  We need to evaluate this further.

My thoughts: As usual Brad was prepared to give a very thoughtful answer. I was impressed he was ready with the statistics demonstrating the long term tax value of preserving farmland. As I write often on this blog, farmland is the best way to keep our taxes sustainably low over the long term. I would have loved a more aggressively positive answer, but I respect that Brad doesn’t put his opinion out there before he completely understands an issue.

Vic Mazzioti: “There are 3 ways we’ve funded preservation in the past. First, through tax dollars. Another was the sale of assets and we received grants from the state.”  “I’m for continuing the program. But if we do it with general tax dollars that requires further discussion.” “Meantime I think we should continue funding the program through the other two sources I mentioned. 1. Any assets that we sell. 2. Grants that we receive that permit us to use those funds for farmland preservation.”

My thoughts: Vic, gave another well thought out answer.

Dean Browning: “The program from early 2000 generated $30 million and we did not need to borrow.  We funded it out of revenue.  I was Chairman of the Sterling Raeburn Farmland Preservation Committee.  I see the benefit of the program, however I am reluctant to continue it absent any specific vote by the taxpayers saying they want the program re-instituted and number 2 identifying a specific funding source for it”

My thoughts:  I was disappointed by this answer. This could have been a way to really differentiate himself to voters in Lower Mac who by and large support open space preservation and understand how an investment today will keep taxes sustainably lower over the long term.





Dog Park planning about to hit stride.

Built it and they will run!

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.30.07 AMIn 2013 I and others advocated for a twp. Dogpark. I thought it was a good idea. Something we needed. However, I felt strongly that the best community projects start with grassroots efforts. Meaning residents should spearhead, not the township.


To that end, for the dog-park to be a success it’s important residents who feel strongly to invest “skin” in the game by:

  • Demonstrating support
  • Organizing and contributing input
  • Fundraising

Again, I just didn’t want this to be a solely township funded and spearheaded project. I feel strong about partnership. Philosophically, I think this is how a local government should prioritize funding initiatives. We should give priority to ones that start with grassroots efforts. This has been a theme in developing Camp Olympic. Many of the projects have been grant funded and supported at least in part by private donations.

At this point, I’m happy to report exciting progress!

1. We have a location: With input from the Parks board, guidance from the parks and recreation comprehensive plan and staff recommendations it was decided the first township dog-park will be at Camp Olympic.

2. The township has applied for grant funding from the state department of conservation and natural resources.

3. The Dog Park resident group is poised and ready to take the reigns. We have residents who have taken leadership roles. Here are ways to get involved:

What can you do to help?

First, visit the Dog Park information table at the 2015 Community Day! Tue. May 5th 4-8pm Lower Macungie Community Center. Information here.

Second, take a minute to check out the Dog Park groups website and while your there fill out the volunteer form! Also have you joined the facebook group yet? There is no commitment but by filling out the form you will be added to the group email list. Volunteer as much or as little as you can.

Lastly, stay tuned for a fundraiser event. This will likely involve 3 things. Food, music and your pups! Hopefully it will showcase the likely dog-park location at Olympic.

Lower Mac to consider borrowing for open space preservation.

I support preservation of farmland & open space prioritized by parcels with high development pressure. While debt isn’t my preferred means to accomplish this I support whatever consensus the board arrives at since I feel strongly about the long term benefits. I also understand we have a voter mandate for preservation.

*Note: I have over the past year proposed alternate funding strategies including:
1. Ear-marking developer transfer taxes for preservation
2. Creating a transferable development rights program (TDR). TDR is a free market mechanism for preservation. It involves no township money.
Unfortunately, neither got traction from other board members. 

In March Commissioners Conrad & Lancsek proposed borrowing to fund preservation. While I am pleased it appears the entire board is willing to settle on a mechanism I am only cautiously optimistic at this point. Read about the proposal here.

First, let’s talk mandates. I came into office with 2. Important to remember, since both relate to preservation.

1. First keep taxes sustainably low. Meaning setting us up for long term resiliency as opposed to gimmicks. I think I’ve delivered with the homestead exclusion that rollled back 25% of the prior boards tax increase for homeowners. More importantly relating to resiliency it sets us up to capture more revenue from commercial and industrial users (strip malls and warehouses). These uses generate more liabilities than revenue. Addressing this disparity sets us up for a more sustainable long term balance sheet. High liability land-uses should carry the burden. Not residents.

2. Second I came into office with clear mandate from voters to preserve farmland and developable open space. This also relates to #1. How to keep taxes low in Lower Macungie.

So why only the cautious optimism about the bond?

I’m nervous that some might see a 10M bond as a “blank check” for whatever pet project is the flavor of the moment. With the “blank check” mentality we can get lazy. That scares me.  Remember, the reason the prior BOC raised taxes in 2012 was to fund capital projects. Fact is since then, the largest single project moving forward is the 4.9 million dollar quarry park renovation including over 1.5M earmarked for turf fields. Hardly a priority and certainly not warranting a tax increase.

I’m nervous we’ve diluted a conversation about funding open space (something with clear long term financial benefits) with “other capital projects”. (Things that might not)

I’m also leery of inducing more “dumb growth” with STROAD infrastructure. While it’s important we solve existing traffic problems we have to be careful not to induce further congestion. (see graph below)

So, lets proceed but with caution. Any questions about the potential bond please feel free to email me at ronbeitler@gmail.com

What is induced demand.

The red line represents vehicle flow along a given road. Traffic steadily rises until someone decides the road needs to be widened. Then the original trend line (dotted red) gets replaced with an even greater travel forecast (dotted orange), as we'd expect by creating more road capacity. But the actual new level of travel developed by this widening (solid red) is even greater than the forecast predicted.

The red line represents vehicle flow along a given road. Traffic steadily rises until someone decides the road needs to be widened. Then the original trend line (dotted red) gets replaced with an even greater travel forecast (dotted orange), as we’d expect by creating more road capacity. But the actual new level of travel developed by this widening (solid red) is even greater than the forecast predicted.

Conservatives need to avoid hypocrisy.

Why on earth is the Texas legislature considering a bill to “hobble” a private companies effort to build a critical high speed rail connection in Texas? Kind of mind boggling. Anti competition, anti market.. Especially considering the private company has vowed not to take a dime of public money. And by building this rail line the company helps Texas avoid dumping countless millions into massively subsidized highway improvements.

Here is the issue: A private company wants to finance a bullet train to carry passengers between Houston and Dallas in less than 90 minutes. The company undertaking the project has said it hopes to have the train running by 2021 and has vowed to not take any public subsidies. Texas Senate Bill targeting bullet train project advances.

As usual Strongtowns nails it:

“Texas is known for its commitment to limited government, individual responsibility and personal liberty. At least it likes to think of itself that way. When it comes to transportation — specifically automobile transportation — Texas is one of the most socialist states in the country, taxing and spending at amazing rates with an additional predilection towards borrowing enormous sums of money to build even more government-backed infrastructure.

I thought us Republicans were all about competition and the free market? I know that I believe in those things? So what’s the issue? Turns out to be eminent domain. Ok, I get that.

But here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. I wonder if the Texas legislature has the same mentality with the Keystone pipeline (also for profit venture) and eminent domain? Taking the eminent domain issues off the table, I have mixed feelings on the pipeline project. What I do know is I can’t stand hypocrisy. And that’s exactly what I’m smelling out of the Texas legislature.

Currently, hundreds of private firms have eminent domain authority in Texas, including pipeline companies, utility companies and telecommunication firms. More than a dozen private railroad companies also have that authority, according to an unofficial list maintained by the state comptroller.

What about if the proposal was a new massively taxpayer subsidized highway that required eiminent or STROAD widening project that involved a taking? Legislators would probably fall over themselves to support it. Can we please avoid cherry picking and applying our conservative principles evenly? We aren’t in the business of picking winners (taxpayer subsidized highway and air lobby) and losers (in this case privately funded rail)

Hypocrisy. Can’t stand it.. Throw in the immensely powerful and massively taxpayer subsidized highway lobby. (Airports also). Very smelly.

This is exactly what we need in the US. Private companies can make passenger rail profitable. The key? SPEED.

Lower Macungie Agenda Preview – 4/16

Board of Commissioner Meeting Agendas & Previews:   FYI – With these previews while I may indicate a voting inclination, it in no way means my mind is made up on any issue.

Presentations: Tonight we will honor 90 year old Veteran, Bertram S. Winzer. Mr. Winzer a WW2 veteran served in the famed Devils Brigade received a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star during the war, but never received the latter medal. When Senator Pat Toomey learned of the oversight he met the veteran in May at a National Military Appreciation Month event. Toomeys office then contacted the Army and arranged for Mr. Winzer to get his award. Albeit 68 years later. Learn more here.

Hearings: Conditional Use Hearing – Jimmy Johns – This development is on the sleepy’s/Dickeys side of the Wal-Mart shopping center. Note: The way our ordinances are written new restaurants are always conditional uses since they can have major parking impacts. The only planning issue here is the fact that the planning commission has some concerns about available parking spaces on that side of Millcreek. Not sure if I agree that parking is an issue, however the simple solution is improving the walkability between the strip and Wal-Mart by adding another crosswalk on Millcreek Rd. This way employees can be required to park across the street and allow more parking for customers on the Dickeys side of Millcreek. I will say that Millcreek Rd. through the shopping center from Lower Mac Rd to the Boulevard is a particularly STROADY, fast, abrasive and dangerous Rd/driveway. It’s exactly what we are trying to get away from in terms of making access roads more Boulevards in tone and character. Anything we can do to address it by a road diet should be considered.

What: Conditional use hearing for new restaurant
Where: Wal Mart (Dickies BBQ side)
Concerns: Parking

Liberty at Millcreek – Another 2 massive warehouses. These ones are primarily in Upper Macungie, but there is a excellent change Lower Mac will get alot of the traffic. Unfortunately, since the project is primarily in UMT we have little sway. There are some major concerns about traffic generation on Grange Rd. It’s likely it will be used as a cut through when traffic jams up on Millcreek. Uline is reported to be the user of the warehouses.

What: 2 warehouses and office buildings.
Where: Millcreek and bypass. (former Air products property)
Concerns: TRAFFIC

“Grandview” Crossings (Allen Organ) – This project has a long history. As a resident I opposed the rezoning that allowed for it to happen. All kinds of backgrounders here. That being said and the new ordinance being the “law of the land” and what we have to work with the focus here was quality. Township planners and staff did do a pretty decent job (with the confines of what I consider to be a weak ordinance) at ensuring the project is high quality.

What: 75k Weis supermarket + gas station, 200+ apartments and 2 pad sites for future restaurants or banks.
Where: Gehman and Rt. 100
Issues: Limited to what I consider a poor/weak ordinance that was enacted before I took office, the focus was on traffic, quality and walkability.

32 more residents sent letters in support of Rt. 222 “bypass” upgrades.
The grand total is over 180 written. The township however is only putting township residents in the agendas. There have been over 100 township residents who submitted letters over the last few weeks. More information on the campaign here.

Sen Browne letter of support: Related to above the township rec’d official correspondence from Sen. Pat Browne in support of Rt. 222 upgrades.

Resident Pete Pavlovich writes in support of roundabout, in support of a verizon cell phone tower and in opposition of 10M capital projects/open space bond. Always looking for more resident feedback on all these issues. 

Letter from Julie McDonell Parks and Recreation Board liason to the Dog Park group.
Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 1.01.34 PMWe will have an update on Hamilton Blvd bike lanes:
Background info here.
And nice LTE in support this past week.


Are locals getting Hamilton Crossings construction jobs?

I want definitive answers to these questions:

1. How many construction jobs will there be vs. the estimates provided in the TIF narrative.

2. And of these jobs, how many and what % are going to locals? Locals defined by residents of the Lehigh Valley.

I have now heard from two people who work in trades that the jobs might not go to locals. Ok. Wasn’t this one of the reasons that some who voted for the TIF cited?  “X00″ construction jobs for the area?

If this is the case I sincerely hope that those who used this rationale to justify the public subsidy are doing whatever they can to encourage and influence the development team to use local labor.  It’s my understanding bids are happening now.

My argument was always the shopping center would have been built without the TIF. (an argument justified by the County vote) BUT those elected officials who used the jobs argument as reasoning not to in their words “gamble” (silly word to use since there was never a question whether the center would get built) should be following through on this. Also why wasn’t there a project labor agreement put on this tied to the TIF? Couldn’t that have been something the 2010 township BOC negotiated if they were truly interested in local job creation?

I criticize public unions often. (that’s a lengthy convo we desperately need reform) But I have ZERO problem with private sector unions. Esp. trade unions. And in this case since public dollars were used to finance this project we should have absolutely REQUIRED local labor.

Wherever possible these jobs should go to Valley residents. I will monitor this.

I need to learn more here and confirm what I’m hearing. More on this soon.. If anyone else has insight here please contact me. Ronbeitler@gmail.com

Lower Mac Garden Plots still available for 2015!

Lower Macungie still has plots available for 2015. But get them quickly. Only a couple more still left at Bogie location. Olympic has about a dozen or so.

The price is 30 a year. Tilling is done every spring (see photo below) and water is available at both locations.  The increase in price is to pay for the time involved in preparing the plots and the monitoring of them.  This program is revenue neutral. Also there were some complaints about plots being rented out but let go to seed. So the hope is the small increase will thin out those gardeners that don’t maintain for a full season leaving more plots for more serious gardeners.

-Plots are approximately 20’ x 30’.
-Plots are rented on a firstcome, first-serve basis.
-Kratzer Farm (Bogie Ave) plots are rented to township residents only
-Camp Olympic plots are available to the wider community (because grant money is used at Olympic) non-resident fee at Olympic is 40.00

Kratzer Farm garden plots (off Bogie Ave) are tilled and ready for Spring veggies!

Kratzer Farm garden plots (off Bogie Ave) are tilled and ready for Spring veggies!