Lower Macungie Commissioners Agenda Preview 3/20/14

FYI –  In these previews I may indicate thoughts on an issue, but it in no way means my mind is set. During a critical hearing for the Jaindl issue, a Commissioner spoke before public comment outlining he was voting to move forward the project regardless of what people said during public comment. That was wrong. Public debate was circumvented when the Commissioner indicated his mind was made up.

My hope is by blogging I open the door for conversations. One of my biggest issues with the Jaindl debacle was folks didn’t truly understand what was happening until it was “too late”. I plan on doing everything I can to make sure residents have background information on issues. This is one mechanism to do that. I hope people find it useful. Please contact me at ronbeitler@gmail.com if you have any questions or concerns about any issues.

Township Board of Commissioners 3/20/14 – Agenda with detail here

Announcements & Presentations: – NONE

Hearings and Approvals – NONE

Public Comment on Non-Agenda items:

John Moore – Request for newspaper ordinance. Not sure I view this as a priority.

Ken Kubushefski – Truck Traffic on Brookside Rd. Mr. Kubushefski writes about increased truck traffic on Brookside and more specifically about the use of “jake brakes” by truckers. 

Two issues here: Increase of trucks on Brookside is twofold. It seems like Buckeye pipeline traffic has increased and also there are significant amount of trucks coming from warehouses in west Lower Mac using Brookside/Sauerkraut and Willow as a cut through.

Next, this is the second formal request for a jake brake prohibition on Brookside Rd. The first was declined by the previous board in 2013. Personally I’m interested in taking another look. Brake retarder prohibitions are quite common. In my opinion it’s something that should go hand in hand with the kind of land development we have allowed. (warehouses) You invite certain types of land use as a community we have to deal with the consequences.

Just how loud are jake brakes? The answer is very loud. – “Anecdotally, it sounds similar to a jackhammer, however the loudness is between 10 and 20 times the sound pressure level of a jackhammer (10 to 13 dB).”

Here is a sample of a local ordinance in West Allen Township:

A. Section 209-46.1, Engine Brake Retarder Prohibition, shall be added as follows:209-46.1 Engine Brake Retarder Prohibition. No gasoline-powered or diesel-powered motor vehicle shall be operated using, as part of the operation, an engine brake retarder without exhaust mufflers or with defective or modified exhaust mufflers, upon any street or portion thereof where such operation is restricted or prohibited upon any street or portion thereof designated as such in Schedule XIX: Engine Brake Retarder Prohibition (Section 209-68).

The logic of the previous board was prohibition of Jake Brakes would create dangerous situations. I’m not sure that makes much sense. Jake brakes are designed for use on excessively steep and long declines. Brookside and other township roads where Jake braking has become an issue for residents is a very flat road. Jake braking is not a necessity if trucks are being driven according to conditions of the road.

Spent some time researching by talking to a trucker. Basically what he told me was if someone is leaning heavily on the Jake Brakes on a flat 40mph road like Brookside then it means they are not driving in line with the road conditions and are using the jakes to make up for it. (Speeding or attempting to stop at the last second)

Jim Wilson – Tractor Trailer issues associate with Spring Creek properties. (see report below on upcoming meeting with penndot to address tractor trailer issues)

Patrick Keenan – Against Tax Increment financing for Costco. Over the last year we’ve gotten lots of correspondence both pro and con TIF. Mr. Keenan however, is looking at the problem from the correct mindset in my opinion. He cites the likelihood of projects like Hamilton Crossings increasing the need for local police services and further improvements to handle more congestion.

The gentleman also mentions the recent article about Rt. 309 in center valley and the needed traffic improvements today. These improvements are above and beyond what was originally projected when the promenade and other area developments came online. As is often the case the improvements at the time ended up not being sufficient. The cost to taxpayers in Saucon will be upwards of 30 million dollars to remediate and won’t be addressed for 10 years. This is exactly one of the arguments that can be made against the TIF. While it may make sense for the school district (although I do not understand settling for 50% when you can get 100% of the increment), on the township end we are the ones who have to deal with the impact locally. There are scenarios where we’ll have to pay for “downstream” traffic improvements within the 20 year timeframe of the TIF while we’re forfeiting 50% of the new tax revenue. How does that make sense? I tend to agree with this letter writer. We have got to start thinking outside the 1st lifecycle of development and address ROI. 

Even with 100% of the new taxes vs. 50% I never viewed this project as the tax windfall that others do. It may be for the school district, but the school district doesn’t have to maintain the infrastructure.

More on Hamilton Crossings TIF issue.

Kent Yorgey writes about request for approval to host a 5k. This has been a yearly request and has never caused any issues. It’s a pleasure to be able to do what we can to help support a good cause. 

Rezoning request corner of Rt. 100 and Spring Creek Rd. At this point I feel the same way about this request as I do regarding the Rt. 100 and Quarry request. This is an area that may fit into a new Neighborhood Commercial designation. And is something that should be considered after creation of a new district.

Engineering: There is resolution to approve sanitary sewer crossing at Norfolk Southern for Spring Creek properties. This is something I need more information on.

Planning – Hamilton Crossings Pond at Wescosville Park. At this point I support seeking the recreation fee equivalent for usage of township park property for a private developers stormwater management. I do no agree with the logic that the costs to build the pond are sufficient compensation. The township did not ask for a “rain garden” nor is it outlined as a need on any comprehensive park planning materials. Further we should not be setting any more of a precedent for using township land for private stormwater without compensation.

Commissioners concerned about Hamilton Crossings impact on park

Both the EAC and the Parks board endorse seeking compensation. Staff has proposed a fee of 29,000 dollars calculated using our Township recreation fee. Anyone supporting an outright giveaway of the land will have to make a pretty strong case.

LVPC grant application  – I support this grant application to address a public safety issue of walkers on Lower Macungie Rd. I live on Lower Macungie Rd. so I am very aware of pedestrians who use the road on a daily basis. Currently pedestrians use the shoulder. Lower Macungie Rd. and Brookside road have pedestrians now. The school district supports the application.
Important to remember, this vote is just to authorize the application. 

Hamilton Crossings Tax Increment Financing Update and Authorization to advertise public hearing.
I will be writing a separate post on this topic sometime later today or tomorrow AM.

Budget & Finance committee:
Planning Commission Recommendation for Capital Improvements Plan
Planning Commission recommendation for capital improvements plan  I  support this. A capital improvement plan is a tool used to assess the long term capital project requirements of a government entity. The purpose for LMT is to evaluate requests for capital items such as maintenance of parks, trails, sanitary sewer, storm water management, open space preservation, public works and fire equipment. The written plan would hopefully identify and describe capital projects requests,rank priority, forecast the years in which funding each project is to occur and methods of funding. I support this initiative. Without a long term capital projects roadmap smart growth planning is incomplete. At it’s core, smart growth is important because it lays out a sustainable financial roadmap for our township. Planning ahead for capital needs is critical.

Homestead Act –  I support exploring this. More information here. 

Planning & Zoning
Smart Growth Plan

Formation of East Texas Study Task Force – I will be sitting on this task force as a member of the planning and zoning committee. The East Texas study will take a look at community serving zoning changes for East Texas Village meant to preserve the walkable town center character of the area as a traditional neighborhood. I’m looking forward to the start of this project.

Coordination of regional communities regarding truck traffic: This is an initiative to coordinate the members of the SWCP to meet as a group with Penndot to identify problems and hopefully solutions to ongoing tractor trailer issues on state roads.