Things to remember when seeing for sale signs on cornfields….

I got a few concerned messages last week about a number of new very large “for sale” signs on major pieces of property in the township. Specifically a number of large cornfields.

There are couple things important to remember: 

1.) Official Map adopted.
First and most important, many of these properties including those on Lower Macungie Rd. and also at Brookside and Sauerkraut are designated on the now adopted township official map for preservation. Lower Macungie Official Map FAQ. Can’t stress enough how important this is. 

2.) We are communicating with landowners.
With every major property designated on the map, township staff has reached out to landowners in an effort to proactively begin conversations. In at least one case (Brookside and Sauerkraut) these conversations are productive and ongoing. A basic framework for preservation has been agreed upon. Below is a Morning Call article outlining the transferable development rights concept that could result in substantial preservation. Family of late developer Weiner helping Lower Macungie pursue farmland preservation, mixed-use village.

3.) Landowners have their property rights.
In all cases even with protections of the official map in place (the 1 year “pause button” on any development plans) landowners still have every right to market properties. In some cases this can actually “move the ball forward” since it helps determine market price. It’s not reason to think development is imminent.

4.) Township remains completely committed to preservation deals. 
What I have told everyone who reached out is that the township remains completely committed to preserving properties identified on the official map. I will say with confidence no stone will be left unturned as far as strategies to accomplish that. We’re taking the biggest swings we can take to get land preserved. All tools are in the toolbox. While some of these conversations are complicated and ongoing, in one case I am cautiously optimistic at this point.

5.) No more flexibility for greenfield developers. No waivers. No variances. 
When determining market value one thing landowners/developers must understand is that the township is no longer willing to grant regulatory flexibility to induce anymore growth. We’re well past the point where we see large tract subdivisions as desirable. A recent example would be the Farr Tract. In that case, we were asked to grant a development inducing text amendment that would have allowed 90+ units. The township denied that request. So now instead that property is moving forward with a plan for 17 estate lots. This was a huge win drastically reducing the impact of development.

In conclusion landowners have every right to develop properties, however large greenfield tracts must now be in strict compliance with the zoning ordinance. We will exercise our rights to deny plans that are not. This is a fundamental shift in philosophy over the last 4 years. With that being said, we are engaging landowners in preservation conversations. All tools to get the job done are in play. One thing is certain these things take time. I’m learned a lot of patience over the last 3 years.