Lower Macungie Commissioners Agenda Preview 4/3/14

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 4/3/14 – Agenda with detail here

Announcements & Presentations: – Proclamation presentation – Eagle Scout Adam J. Banko Love to see this. I was a Cub/Boy Scout but didn’t make it past 1st class. Huge regret til this day. Congratulations Mr. Banko your a better man then me.

Hearings and Approvals
Two resolutions on the table tonight approving lot line adjustments for Hamilton Crossings. I typically support the recommendations of the planning commission and staff on lot line adjustments. *NOTE: This is a part of the land development process of which I’m generally supportive. Remember, this is separate from the TIF funding issues. At least the way I see it. Two separate issues. The land development process and the TIF funding.

Public Comment on Non-Agenda items:

There are 4 comments on Hamilton Crossings. 2 against and 1 in favor. The last asks some very relevant questions urging caution.

I want to comment on the one letter from resident Mr. Tom Devine. Good letter and valid. He does refer to my recent guest column in the morning call and refers to me as a NIMBY. Now, in this business you get ppl calling you much worse. But my problem with this is I don’t think it applies. While I question the TIF funding and while I question if the developer is providing a “world class” project in general I am supportive of this type of project at this particluar location. So therefore, NIMBYISM doesn’t apply. (Not In My Back Yard)

More on Hamilton Crossings TIF issue.

Scott Alderfer EAC recommendation. Scott is the chair of the township Environmental Advisory Council. In the letter Mr. Alderfer passes on the recommendation of the EAC encouraging the township to explore creation of a Municipal Stormwater Authority.

In 2013 in an effort to empower municipalities to better manage stormwater SB 351 was passed into law. The bill was sponsored by state Senator (R) Ted Erickson and passed with mostly bi-partisan support.

I will comment on this in the coming weeks after I learn more and do some research. Meantime here are some primers for interested residents: (In addition I suggest clicking on agenda detail and reading the letter which contains a very good overview)

Considering a stormwater authority? 12 steps to help a township make the decision. 

Two letters of support from the Parks Board in support of Spring Ridge park amenities and trail improvements.

Request for Authorization for form an 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.

Request to amend Floodplain Ordinance – Basically the suggestion from staff is to line our ordinance up with the LVPC model ordinance. This also updates the ordinance to better handle recent changes in the law. This is an issue I need to learn more about and will write more detail on thoughts in the next month. Two letters from staff outlining the requested changes in agenda Detail.

Public Safety Committee meets tonight. (Beitler/Brown)

We will discussing Jake Brake Prohibitions within the township. I have reviewed the criteria outlined by Penndot where the prohibitions are appropriate without causing safety issues. We are reviewing this in Committee and will report to the full BOC.

Here is an overview for those not familiar with the issue from my preview last month:

Two issues: Increase of trucks on Brookside is twofold. It seems like Buckeye pipeline traffic (which has been an issue for years and years) has increased recently with additional warehouse trucks.

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 theoperation, 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. UPDATE: The public safety committee will be reviewing Jake Brake prohibition criteria outlined at Penndot at tonight’s committee meeting. 


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 encouraged exploration of this in February. It’s something I support exploring as a way to reduce property taxes for residential properties. More information on my thoughts here. NOTE: There will be a presentation at tonight’s Budget and Finance committee mtg at 6:15.

Planning & Zoning (Lanscek/Beitler)
Planning and Zoning has not met since the last meeting.

Public Works (Brown/Higgins)

General Administration. (Higgins/Conrad)
The Committee has authorized the drafting of a meeting policy allowing participation via telephone for Commissioners sick or out of town. I support this.

Old Business:

Hamilton Crossings TIF issue: Note – the public hearing will be held May 1st. I encourage all interested residents to attend. This deals with the financing of the project through TIF.