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.

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#dothemath when making land development decisions.

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The 33 acre Kohler Tract in Upper Milford Township

If Lehigh Valley municipalities are serious about their long term financial resiliency we have to start doing a better job considering public costs of different development proposals. And do it beyond initial build out and 1st lifecycle of a project. This is called determining a cost of community service (COCS) ratio.

Upper Milford Township is starting to do just that with a 33 acre tract off Rt. 100Supervisors are doing the math in an effort to determine if preserving the parcel is better off financially for taxpayers over the long term as opposed to assuming additional permanent liabilities associated with a proposed build out scenario.

Basically it’s a return on investment calculation.

Here is the thought process outlined by one Supervisor so far:
“If the Kohler farm is sold for housing construction according to (Rob) Sentner, the cost to educate new students would result in a $2,276,000 school district deficit per year with a total indebtedness amounting to $45,520,000 over a 20-year time-span to educate the new students. All East Penn School District taxpayers would be required to pick up the tab for all those new students.”

“Alternatively, if the township purchases the parcel with as $2 million bond at four per cent interest, this would cost Upper Milford residents much less at $145,428 annually.”

Many residents have strong feelings that preservation makes sense from a quality of life standpoint. And that is important to consider. But there is also a very powerful financial argument.

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Beautiful Drone Fly-over of Lower Macungie’s Kratzer Farm Park.

For best Prezi viewing make sure to click full screen.

This Prezi is to raise awareness that this large farm property in the middle of the township is public land. A lot of folks don’t know the township owns it or they don’t realize just how big it is.

We also want to let people know that currently there is a proposal in the 2016 budget to draft a master plan for the property. The goal would be to open the park up for more public access maintaining it as a large passive conservation park.

Some goals could be:

  • Maintain a significant portion in agriculture with permanent protection perhaps a local CSA
  • A greenway spine trailhead at the house and barn
  • A restroom facility in or near the barn
  • Interior trails around the perimeter and linkages to neighboring communities
  • ADA accessible fishing
  • Habitat
  • Permaculture demonstration site
  • A permanent historical nod to the townships rural history

What are you ideas?

Huge thanks to Fred Zahardrik for the Prezi & Jordan Oplinger for the Drone work, Film and Editing.

Youtube of just the drone footage.

Lower Mac Trick or Treat 2015

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Please be safe!

Halloween Safety Tips from safekids.org top tips

  • When selecting a costume make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.
  • Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors. Since masks can sometimes obstruct a child’s vision, try non-toxic face paint and makeup whenever possible.
  • Have kids use glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  • Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
  • Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.


Learn about LMT: Do you live in Brandywine, Penns Meadow, Rolling Meadows or Shepherd Hills? Did you know the 80+ acre Kratzer Farm is township public property? Click here to view a drone flyover video of the fantastic piece of open space

High Speed Rail – Without federal funding states forced to get creative.

“Without federal funding, bullet train projects across the country have gotten creative.” – Citylab.

That’s the way it should be. Take away clumsy top down federal funding mechanisms. Force states to get creative. End of day achieve better outcomes.

“The Republican smackdown of federal high-speed rail funding was supposed to be the death of the national system of fast trains the White House envisioned early in President Obama’s first term. And yet cities across the country keep trying to make HSR happen.” – Eric Jaffe, Citylab

 I am a supporter of High Speed Rail (HSR) in the US. But to use Strongtowns vernacular a top down federal funding source would likely result in an “orderly but dumb” system.

Strongtowns often recites “Carlson’s Law” which states, “top-down innovation is orderly but dumb, bottom-up innovation is chaotic but smart.” Looks like in the case of HSR, a lack of federal funding is forcing states to get creative. That is a good thing.

Some examples:

So the lack of a clumsy top down funding mechanism results in incrementalism, private money at stake and insistence on value capture – in other words, all the things you want to hear with a HSR proposal. The items that will go alot futher to ensure projects are successful. And all items that wouldn’t be assured in an orderly but dumb top down framework.

2016 proposed budget LMT & meeting schedule.

Right off the bat: The budget contains 3.3 Million dollars for Astroturf fields at Quarry Park.  This is a carry over from 2015 since the money has not yet been spent.

This will certainly be an issue moving forward. I do not support carrying over this money into the 2016 budget. This will be dissected and debated over the course of the next month and a half. I opposed the original allocation during budget talks last year. Link here: Two Lower Macungie Commissioners oppose budget with controversial artificial turf project

More than any other level of government at the local level residents have the opportunity to shape the conversation. And I want to hear from you.

Over the next 2 months the budget will be examined in detail over the course of 3 or more public meetings specifically devoted to the task. Certainly items will be cut others added. During the course of the public workshops township departments and organizations and grantees like the library and LMYA will defend budget requests. Commissioners will debate the proposal line by line.

Here is the 2016 proposed budget.

*NOTE this is put together by staff and is a yearly “starting point”. The budget will be examined in detail over the course of 3 (or more) public meetings specifically devoted to the task. Individual Commissioner review began last week. I will post more when I have time to digest. Items will be cut. Others will be added. During the course of the 3 workshops the various township departments and community organizations (For ex. the library and LMYA) will defend requests. All meetings are public. 

Here is the budget workshop schedule.

What do you think? Questions? Thoughts on the proposal?
Email me at Ronbeitler@gmail.com

More from my blog:
Local governments must now report how much money was lost to tax subsidies.

Widening of Rt. 22 to start…

According to the Morning Call

The $64.7 million project, which will stretch to November 2020, will ultimately replace three bridges and widen the highway from four lanes to six. PennDOT is requiring lane closings to come only at night, but planning officials warn that no project this big comes without pain.

Needed and long overdue. However if we continue on the same path we’re on its essentially a bandaid. Moving forward unless we’re prepared to repeat the same conversation in another decade we have to get land use policy under control.

This is because… induced demand is a thing. In the world of traffic improvements it’s been proven time and time again. What it means is basically improvements are forced because of existing capacity issues. Problem is those same improvements just generate more induced demand instead of forcing a self correction in terms of land development practices. This leads to a vicious and expensive circle. 6 lanes today is a band-aid for a few years. But we’ll need 8 lanes tomorrow.

Remember when I-78 the last “big fix” was the end game?

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How do we unlock the Lehigh Valley from the vicious and massively expensive circle of induced demand? Preserve remaining farmland.

How do we unlock the Lehigh Valley from the vicious and massively expensive circle of induced demand?
Preserve remaining farmland.

Meanwhile we continue to lose the character that makes the Lehigh Valley a special place. The reason so many move here.

Lower Macungie – We’re a part of the problem.

Since 2010, Lower Macungie has rezoned over 850 acres of land for more intense development.

For starters, Lower Macungie will generate 800 more residential units than were ever planned for, nearly 4+ million square feet of warehousing and a couple hundred thousand additional square feet of commercial.

Strategic planning? How can you possibly plan for such a moving target?

Lower Macungie is definitely in part responsible for the expensive mess we are in. But we certainly aren’t alone. Other communities are as well. Moving forward unless we want to plan to throw another billion dollars at Rt. 22 or some other massively expensive capacity project for 8 lanes in another decade we have to get land use decisions under control across the Lehigh Valley. Remember, in a world where state and federal funding is less and less reliable eventually the pain could very well be felt more intensely at the local to fund these improvements. Personally, I think that is the most likely scenario.


Local governments will have to disclose how much money lost to subsidies

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) now requires cities to disclose, as part of their financial reporting, the amount of money lost to tax subsidies.

GASB is the source of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) used by State and Local governments in the US.

If I’m understanding this correctly, moving forward Lower Macungie Township will have to disclose as part of our yearly audit the amount of money given away as a part of the Hamilton Crossings TIF subsidy. I believe this applies to the school district as well. And would have the County had they not had the foresight to opt out of the giveaway. Moving forward they will now benefit from 100% of the incremental revenue while the school district and township each forfeit 50%.

Most governments trying to sell tax abatement schemes to residents provide volumes of information before adoption, problem is rarely do they follow up. More specifically they do not often enough assess how the abatements affect finances over the long term in relation to newly assumed liabilities associated with the development.

Strongtowns as usual nails the importance of this: 

Knowing how these deals work, I suspect that many government officials, including many who work in the realm of economic development, will be surprised by the disclosures. Many are aware of the transactions and the accompanying silly conversations that equate jobs and growth with subsidy, but as the details fade out of memory. I’ve never seen a city go back and ask whether or not a deal actually made sense financially once it was completed. It’s all left up to the windshield test (looks like it’s working).

Moving forward as part of the yearly audit Lower Mac will now quantify the tax giveaway on paper. Does this change the underlying problems that I think the TIF will create? No. But by better understanding the impact we can make better informed decisions in the future.

Here is a link to the new requirements. – GASB Tax Abatement Disclosures

Press release from “Good jobs first” and organization that promotes accountability in economic development schemes.

Background: Last year Lower Mac and the EPSD both narrowly adopted a contentious TIF for the Hamilton Crossings shopping center. Tax increment financing, or TIF, subsidizes companies by refunding or diverting a portion of their taxes to help finance the project.

While I am not against all abatement programs I did vote against the Hamilton Crossings TIF. The main reason was it clearly failed what I consider to be the most important criteria. That being the “but for” test. Meaning, would the project or similar desired development happen “but for” a government intervention. In our case basically the answer was a resounding yes. This is evidenced by projects heating up literally across the entire township – no TIFS needed. When we utilize a TIF where it isn’t a necessity in an otherwise healthy local economy like Lower Macungie is we skew the market.

Lower Mac Board of Commissioners Vacancy – Candidates and info

The purpose of this post is informational.

I am reserving my opinion until I have the opportunity to hear from all candidates at the public hearing next Monday the 14th. Commissioners will then vote by public ballot at our next scheduled meeting on the 17th. (the procedure is outlined in detail via the link below.)

I want to ensure this process is extremely transparent. Putting someone onto the Board of Commissioners to fill the remainder of a two year term, someone who has not been elected by majority vote of the residents of the township is a huge responsibility.

As an FYI here is a list of the 10 candidates who have submitted resumes before the 4pm deadline today. Also a link to an overview of the process we will be undertaking and a list of candidate resumes.

LINK LMT BOC Vacancy Candidates & process.

The 10 candidates are:
Bob Rust
Rich Ward
Michael Siegal

George Doughty
Julie Mcdonnell
Todd Rothermel
Roger Reis
Ben Galliardo
Scott Forbes
Michael Heilman

I would encourage folks to send letters to the township by Monday at 12 noon if you have any thoughts on any of these candidates or questions you would like Commissioners to ask specific questions of them Monday night if you cannot attend in person.

Please send questions both to myself at ronbeitler@gmail.com and to the township directly using the lowermac.com contact form. Remember, all formal correspondence submitted to the township is also included on the next BOC agenda.

I am also starting a thread on my Commissioner FB page for folks to submit questions. If I receive similar suggestions I will consolidate. But I will do my best to cover all general topics.

Lastly, I encourage you to attend the hearing in person next Monday night at 8pm.
If you cannot make it I am also asking the manager if we can make arrangements to videotape the hearing for posting  on the township youtube site Monday night. I will post on my FB page if I get a confirmation of that request.


Boulevard Commercial is High Value Development.

To demonstrate public value I take different land use patterns and try to quantify.

Parameters include: Public liabilities assumed vs. jobs and revenue created / acre of land lost. Rudimentary but gets us in the ballpark to clearly demonstrate in broad strokes issues with bad land use decisions. I sincerely believe Lower Macungie needs to undertake a sophisticated cost of municipal Services / value study in this same vein to help inform future land use decisions. We must stop chasing growth and start chasing better growth.

Today made a new frame for “Boulevard Commercial”. Relates to my post from Tuesday about the importance of making sure we build out a high quality Boulevard. It’s not only about aesthetics and quality of life but also the financial arguments based on demanding better returns on public dollars. As opposed to strip commercial, Boulevard Commercial returns much higher value.

I think the Progressive Eye Institute is an excellent example. Boulevard Commercial is properly scaled, high quality low impact development along Hamilton. This is what we need to attract in order to avoid the Blvd becoming “Macarther Rd”.

Not only is it better for quality of life and property values but this form of development gives high returns back to the community. Communities making land development decisions need to #dothemath.

Boulevard Commercial. High productivity. Use of existing infrastructure means high value and very low public liability. Focus on high quality means community friendly.

Village Commercial. Highest Value. Utilizes existing infrastructure. Very low community impact and liabilities. Neighborhood friendly.


Higher Density strip commercial with high design standards. Better than normal strip commercial because of shared community vision. Will be a better project in Lower Mac than if built somewhere else due to township pressure for quality. Community conscientious developer worked with township to improve project.

Lowest value revenue and jobs per acre. Ultra high public liabilities. Massive amounts of land lost.

*Warehouse figures close to but before full occupancy. Jobs per acre might be slightly higher now. But even a doubling or tripling of employment still puts this type of development in the extreme low range of productivity paired with ultra high public liabilities.

*Local revenue = assessed value at LMT millage / acreage.

*Public liabilities include consideration for traffic generation, public infrastructure strain and stormwater management costs.

Post WW2 vs. traditional development patterns.

Lower Macungie has for far too long been heavily invested in the post WW2 development pattern. A pattern proven to lead to an inevitable outcome of decline.

I am interested in fostering an environment conducive to a more time tested and resilient traditional approach. This chart breaks the differences down:
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We start by eliminating and rolling back arbitrary regulations that actually prevent, outright outlaw and deter more productive and higher value development.

The massive Spring Creek Properties development being constructed now is a classic post WW2 ponzi scheme development. Ultra large in scale. Infrastructure subsidized by massive taxpayer investments with no accounting for long term municipal liabilities. Ultra high risk. High impact. Dependent (So far) on 2 very large scale developers. Feedback upon buildout will be immediate and severe.

Although end of the day a more community friendly project because of a somewhat shared vision (although very much constrained from day 1) due to a genuinely conscientious developer Hamilton Crossings is still classic post WW2 ponzi scheme development. It took massive public subsidies and is therefore by nature very high risk and relatively low reward.

Moving forward we have to foster an environment where we can develop the Boulevard block by block with targeted relatively low cost investments. This represents incremental development on a manageable scale.

Creating value block by block looks like this:

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Progressive eye institute is a low impact high value project on the Hamilton Corridor. An example of what the township needs to foster.

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